South Quad project sparks mixed feedback

Katie Langley, Associate News Editor

Samantha Schild took to Instagram on Feb. 3, after Quinnipiac University announced its plan to build a new South Quad between Tator Hall and the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“I’m sorry, this is a joke right?” wrote Schild, the secretary of Students for Environmental Action, on the Instagram Story.

The university plans to build two new academic buildings and a residence hall by 2024. The project, which will cost $244 million, includes a new School of Business, a 417-bed residence hall and a general academic building. 

A rendering of the South Quad shows the proposed blueprint for the three new buildings Quinnipiac University plans to build by 2024. (Photo contributed by Quinnipiac University)

However, students said the problem is that this involves destruction and disturbance to the campus’ woodsy pine grove path. 

“Tearing down the pine grove to build three new buildings and claiming to be a school focused on sustainability in eco-consciousness is hypocrisy at its finest,” Schild, a third-year 3+1 biology major, wrote in the post, which expired after 24 hours. 

As a member of the Sustainability Committee, Schild said she is not aware of the university seeking any input from students before announcing its building plan, despite the commitment to “build relationships with Students for Environmental Action and other student groups” noted in an October 2020 Sustainability Report. 

The university opened a Blackboard online community forum in 2020 for community members to voice concerns about issues of sustainability. An update from the office of President Judy Olian assures that the university has held “a series of town hall forums, meetings with stakeholders and a review of (the) best practices” for its upcoming plans.  

“Why have a Sustainability Committee … if you aren’t going to include them in these types of pivotal decisions?” Schild told The Chronicle. 

Why have a Sustainability Committee, if you aren’t going to include them in these types of pivotal decisions?”

— Samantha Schild, Students for Environmental Action's secretary

The university has made significant promises to be ecologically conscious. In the October report, Olian laid out a plan for a Sustainability Committee with the vision of establishing sustainability in “learning, living and leading.” 

“A sustainable living environment necessitates campus layouts that fully integrate with surrounding natural environments,” the university wrote in the report. “This requires the integration of ‘natural areas’ into campus design.” 

Quinnipiac expressed that it hopes to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification in accordance with its sustainability plan and is considering building a green roof as a part of the new construction and utilizing solar power during building. A green roof is a roof covered in vegetation, used to absorb rainwater, encourage native wildlife and provide insulation. The university also plans to incorporate sustainable energy by housing a central energy plant under the new academic building set to hold the School of Business. 

“It is wonderful that the university has committed to making all three buildings LEED certified,” said Sam Edwards, professor of legal studies and co-chair of the Sustainability Committee. “This is a significant commitment to sustainability… They include things such as location and transportation, materials and resources, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, sustainable sites and indoor air quality.” 

Schild said these commitments are not nearly sufficient enough to establish Quinnipiac’s presence as an environmentally friendly university, especially not when getting there involves the destruction of existing natural spaces. 

“‘(Exploring) the installation of a green roof with live vegetation and/or solar panels for energy generation’ sounds to me like a weak effort to address the issues the administration knew they were causing,” Schild said. “Implementing these types of changes should start with the numerous academic buildings and residence halls we already have.” 

However, Edwards said that the green roof will be a suitable location to conduct sustainability research. 

For me, the bottom line is that if the university is going to build buildings, it is great that they will be built to external sustainability standards.”

— Sam Edwards, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee

“For me, the bottom line is that if the university is going to build buildings, it is great that they will be built to external sustainability standards,” Edwards said. 

Schild listed newly renovated residence halls Perlroth, Larson, Troup and Complex as better suggestions for the location of a green roof and solar panels, rather than further construction. She said that the university needs to preserve its natural resources, especially those that are in the process of repairing themselves from climatary damage. 

“The Pine Grove has undergone a lot of damage from storms and tornadoes in the past few years, a testament to a changing climate with more and more extremes,” Schild said. “But the drive that the administration feels to tear down such a beloved part of campus is incredibly disheartening.” 

Schild said that the pine grove helps students feel connected to nature, and that it is not enough to have Sleeping Giant State Park across the street. In addition, Schild said that the construction will lead to the extermination of native plants and insects from the area. 

“No more sweet songs in the mornings that you can hear all the way on the Quad,” Schild said about the campus environment when the building comes to fruition. “So much more will be lost than just the beautiful, towering trees.”

Cameron Davignon, a senior finance major, said that he is excited for the new buildings. 

“I’m honestly all for it,” Davignon said. “I just wish I was still going to be here to see the new School of Business.” 

Davignon, who was a member of the Residence Hall Planning Committee last summer, said he discussed the issue of knocking down the pine grove with Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi. 

“Sal Filardi said they’ll plant multiples of what they cut down, so assuming they do that, I think (cutting down the trees is) fine,” Davignon said. 

Though some students expressed on a Quinnipiac Barstool Instagram post after the announcement that they would rather see the university spend money on different projects, Davignon said the South Quad is an acceptable investment. 

It’s good to see (the university) spending the $750 million endowment on expansion because they’re usually hesitant to spend it, in my opinion.”

— Cameron Davignon, a senior finance major

“It’s good to see (the university) spending the $750 million endowment on expansion because they’re usually hesitant to spend it, in my opinion,” Davignon said. 

Justin Taddeo, a sophomore public relations major, was more concerned about the usage of the university’s space than the sustainability of the project. He said that Quinnipiac should focus on additional parking rather than creating more academic and residential buildings. However, he agreed that it is a good investment in the long run. 

“I think paying for more memorable events or buying supplies for certain clubs or departments is something they could do right now to help current students,” Taddeo said about the university’s finances. 

As far as the Pine Grove, Taddeo said that though he can see the concern, the construction does not bother him “because we have all of Sleeping Giant to enjoy.” 

In an Instagram Story poll from The Quinnipiac Chronicle, 39 respondents said they support the plans for the South Quad, while 46 said they did not.