‘Parking, dining and course registration’: Administrators address students’ concerns

Katie Langley and Jack Spiegel

“Some of the questions that we get have a little bit of hot sauce on them,” said Don Sawyer, vice president for equity, inclusion and leadership, at the Student Government Association’s annual State of the QUnion event Feb. 16.

Quinnipiac University administrators answered questions from students about everything from parking to inclusion.

The panel of administrators included Sawyer, President Judy Olian, Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett, Provost Debra Liebowitz, Chief of Public Safety Tony Reyes and Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi.

Quinnipiac University administrators (left to right) Sal Filardi, Tony Reyes, Judy Olian, Debra Liebowitz and Tom Ellett responded to student questions at the annual State of the QUnion event. (Jack Spiegel/Chronicle)

After introductions by Olian and SGA President Nick Ciampanelli, students had the opportunity to submit questions. SGA Vice President and senior economics major Chris Longchamp moderated the event.

Ciampanelli, a senior political science and economics double major, told The Chronicle that the “cornerstone” event allows students to ask the tough questions to learn about university functions and planning.

The State of the QUnion kicked off with student questions, including queries on the future of masking on campus.

Ellett announced that once Connecticut’s state masking order expires, “We (Quinnipiac) are likely to recommend masks remain required in classrooms, but optional in other indoor settings.”

In terms of campus safety, Reyes said his office is “vigorously recruiting” officers after The Chronicle reported that Public Safety’s 10 vacancies resulted in 154 overtime shifts and up to 16 hour-workdays.

Reyes also confirmed that his office is working to ensure the proper functioning of Mount Carmel’s 13 blue lights, and that lights will likely be added with campus expansion.

Regarding parking enforcement, Reyes said that officers are cracking down on unauthorized parking, and have given out over 1,000 tickets in the last month.

Ellett said the administration believes that there is enough parking to accommodate the needs of students on both the York Hill and Mount Carmel campuses.

In September, The Chronicle reported that there are 4,541 parking spots, located on Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses and off-campus lots. Ellett said over 20% of the spots in Hogan Lot go unfilled every day.

“I think that there is something in the culture here that everyone — and there’s a good portion of students — who think, ‘I need to park right in front of where I go,’” Ellett said. “That’s just not possible. There are more students that come to Mount Carmel than there are spaces.”

Ellett said that the solution is for students to park off campus and take a shuttle to Mount Carmel, even if this adds time to their commute. He said that Quinnipiac is “not an anomaly” among colleges when it comes to needing to take shuttles between campuses.

“Go online to any student newspaper, any college or university. What are the three main problems students complain about?” Ellett said. “Parking, dining and course registration.”

Longchamp told The Chronicle that questions about parking reflect that it is the “biggest issue” facing students. He was quoted as saying the same thing at last year’s State of the QUnion.

Ellett said the plan to improve parking in the long run includes investing in the shuttle service and a new MBA consulting program that allows students to recommend policies.

With the new $90 fee for commuter students, the panel faced questions about commuters feeling unwelcome on campus. The university postponed the fee for the fall semester due to student and SGA disapproval.

“Having (the parking fee) delayed a semester was a win. (But) it wasn’t ideal,” Ciampanelli said.

Ellett said that the university is working to make commuters feel more at home with new initiatives, such as the commuter and transfer assistant program.

The panelists also said that they are working with SGA on coordinating specific spaces for students who identify as female.

Jeremy Gustafson, SGA vice president of inclusion, diversity and engagement, told The Chronicle that increasing spaces for women is just one of his goals. He said he plans on working closely with both administration and multicultural student organizations on campus to improve inclusion and accessibility.

In terms of administrative engagement, Gustafson said the response to DEI-related complaints by university officials has been “a hodgepodge” and lacks communication.

“Sometimes it seems like there could be more cross-department collaboration on certain projects,” Gustafson, a senior economics major said.

Despite this, Sawyer said that he is working to make the university more inclusive, with increasing global partnerships and the university’s LGBTQ plan, which includes gender-neutral housing and restrooms.

While many students had pressing questions for the administration, others shared that they were brought to the event with the promise of raffles and pizza.

“I wanted to hear what everyone has to say,” said Gabrielle Inacio, a first-year biochemistry major. “And free food.”