Lahey speaks on campus diversity
Expanding on his official statements regarding the most recent racial incident on campus, President John Lahey was confident that the university does not need to do anything specific in response to the incident, yet he is unsatisfied with the amount of diversity on campus.
“We are not a diverse community,” the president said. “I think we do have a fairly homogeneous student body. So no, I am not satisfied with the level of diversity, but I am satisfied with the progress we have made over the past 20 years. We still have a ways to go.”
Lahey sat down with The Chronicle for an exclusive interview to expand on his campus-wide e-mail sent on Sept. 6 to students, faculty, and staff regarding the incident that occurred the week before.
On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 28 a racial slur was found written on the dry-erase board of a black female freshman in the Ledges residence hall. The vandalism was the second incident of its kind written in a freshman residence hall over the past four school calendar months. A university investigation failed to turn in a culprit to March’s racial slur incident.
A current university run investigation is underway to find out who wrote the racial slur two weeks ago, but at deadline the vandal had not been found. According to e-mails sent by Dean of Students Manuel Carreiro and Lahey, the student who is responsible for the derogatory comment will no longer be welcome at Quinnipiac.
When asked if the university contacted the Hamden Police Department, Lahey said he was unaware.
“I would be surprised if they did not (contact the Hamden Police Department) only because we pay the town of Hamden for their security people to be here during the week,” Lahey said.
Lahey stressed that it was “irrelevant” to the university whether the Hamden Police were involved or not.
“I don’t know if it was a crime or not, but it doesn’t matter,” Lahey said. “It was sufficiently bad the student would be expelled from the university, and what happens after that, we really don’t care.”
Lahey mentioned that Quinnipiac and the Hamden Police Department work “hand-and-glove” on matters, and have a very close relationship; as close as a university and local police can work together Lahey said.
“It’s not like we have to make a call to the Hamden Police for them to be aware,” Lahey said. “I would find it inconceivable that the Hamden Police are not aware of whatever occurred on that Tuesday morning.”
However, Hamden Police Chief Thomas Wydra was not aware of the incident as of Monday; two weeks after the slur was found.
When asked what would happen if a complaint were to be filed regarding the incident on Aug. 28, Wydra said they would pursue an inquiry.
“We’d be more than willing to investigate it,” Wydra said in a phone interview. “It’s against the law to harass someone based on their race.”
Wydra said that although he was unaware of the incident, it is possible someone else on the police force knew something about it.
“I can’t speak for everyone here, because there are over 100 officers,” Wydra said. However, Monday was the first Wydra had heard about the incident.
“Nobody should have to tolerate this kind of harassment,” he said.
When asked what the Quinnipiac administration planned to do in response to the past two racial slur incidents, Lahey said the university’s currrent protocol does not need much alteration.
“I can’t think of anything new that we are doing specifically in response to these two things,” the president said. “I just don’t know what they would be.”
He added that as the campus grows thereis a possibility that the university will experience additional incidents.
“Given the relative infrequency, not to play them down or to minimize them, it suggests that the only thing we can do is whenever these things occur we can condemn them in the strongest terms and try to find the people responsible and hold them accountable,” Lahey said.
While the president is unsatisfied with the diversity numbers on campus, he lauds the university’s effort to improve the low numbers.
“I do think as despicable and reprehensible as that is (racial slur) I think it does need to be put in a little broader context,” the president explained.
“I think one of the great strengths at Quinnipiac is our sense of community. While we’re not the most diverse community, certainly over my 20 years, its been dramatically more diverse. And ironically this year we actually have, in terms of student body, the new students coming in are among the most diverse we’ve had.”
According to Lahey, the incoming freshman undergraduate class self-identifies as having a 12% minority make-up. He also said that 18% of the incoming class at the university’s law school are minorities.
“I think that the most important long-term thing is to diversify this campus,” President Lahey said. “The more diverse the campus is, I think that is the most powerful message-that you have to respect the differences among people of all kind; and that’s just not the student body, it’s the faculty and staff.”