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Lahey expects northern Hamden to become college town
As the university continues to grow, it’s creating “growing pains” for the town of Hamden, President John Lahey said.
“Quinnipiac has had what I would say a hot and cold relationship with the town of Hamden over the past,” he said.
Lahey says the university “ has worked cooperatively” with more than 12 mayors of Hamden over the past 25 years. But the university’s growth, he said, has added to the “amount of noise, cars, dormitories.”
“We’re the most significant economic driver for the town of Hamden, that helps everyone and I think the business community is very appreciative of that,” he said. “The business community I can tell you in Hamden has been thrilled with our growth, so is North Haven.”
The town of Hamden has also consistently requested, for the past 20 years, the university require its students to live on campus, according to Lahey.
“We’ve said absolutely not,” Lahey said. “We have consistently said that that’s not a policy we can adopt, and it doesn’t make sense for our students to do that. It will be particularly limiting to students who do internships and have jobs, and who are seniors, in most cases, who are 21 and would prefer to live with fewer rules.”
However, the university hasn’t been able to accommodate all the students who wish to live on campus as the university has grown, Lahey said.
“We have indicated with the town, and I’ve talked directly with Mayor [Scott] Jackson and his predecessor that we will build all the dormitories and beds that are necessary to house whatever the student demand is to live on campus,” he said.
Just two weeks ago, several students were arrested for breach of peace and 13 students were cited for creating a public disturbance in off-campus house parties. However, these parties were not hosted in Quinnipiac-owned housing, according to Lahey.
“These are owned by private citizens, and while if students misbehave in ways that negatively affect our student body or violate our rules there, we put them through the same disciplinary process as students who live in university-owned housing,” Lahey said. “But we don’t have the authority to go into privately owned houses and send [Public Safety officers] there.”
The students residing in the houses involved in the recent events are violating the town zoning laws, according to Lahey.
“Again, that’s not a Quinnipiac problem, it may be Quinnipiac students, but we don’t have more than four people in a university-owned house, and we own over 100 houses, none of those are problems. That’s the town’s responsibility, not our responsibility,” Lahey said.
“I would say the overwhelming majority of students living off campus are very responsible, very good neighbors and don’t have issues,” he said. “And the few that do, we certainly, and the town knows this, when we find a student who violates that, we’re tough; we’ve thrown students out of dormitories, university housing, we’ve thrown them out the university, we’ve been sued and won in court some years past for throwing students out for running an illegal bar.”
As the university continues to work with the town of Hamden on housing plans, the university is also working with state officials to convert the area of Whitney Avenue into a boulevard, in hopes of making northern Hamden a college town, Lahey said.
Lahey sees the northern end of Hamden soon becoming a college town, including Ives Street up to Mount Carmel Avenue.
“We want to turn that whole strip along Whitney Avenue into a very much collegiate neighborhood,” he said.
With the strip, the university plans to add a Quinnipiac Inn, a Quinnipiac theater for the theater program and more attractions such as Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles, according to Lahey.
“It’s improving, but it’s not what I would say an esthetically beautiful collegiate sort of strip there,” he said.
The university is also in the process in buying “as many of the houses along Whitney Avenue there are possible,” Lahey said.
If the university obtains these houses and decide not to use them for housing, the university plans to use them for administrative purposes, the radio station, QU Online or other activities, according to Lahey.
Lahey has seen Quinnipiac University’s student population grow from under 2,000 undergraduates to close to 9,000 undergraduates in just 25 years. But Lahey expects a much less growth in the student body in the next 10 years.
“Our strategic plan calls for us to get maybe up to 10,000 students, by our standards that’s just a 10 percent increase, and that might have occurred in the next five or six years,” he said
Quinnipiac University used to be known as Quinnipiac College, but has expanded its academic programs, attracting diverse student interest. The university is made up of 20 percent Connecticut residents, and 80 percent outside residents, Lahey said.
“While we haven’t finished, we’re not as famous as Stanford or Notre Dame maybe, but we are clearly moving and increasingly recognized on a national basis,” he said.
Quinnipiac University is currently ranked No. 11 in U.S. News & World Report’s top regional universities. Lahey predicts the university moving to the national universities category in the next several years.
“The big growth we had has pretty much finished. I think what you’ll see is much more a focus on is center for excellence and getting Quinnipiac not only what it is today, an excellent university with great academic programs, but really get us nationally ranked even higher,” he said.
Although Lahey promises the university does not plan to add a fourth campus, there are plans to add a new residence hall on the York Hill campus ( see article “Facilities aims to add housing”)
The university is also planning to make some improvements to two fields in the next two years including an artificial field closer to natural grass for soccer and lacrosse, and a flat surface field for field hockey and intramurals activities.
The York Hill campus will also expect a new track and field and athletic facility for both collegiate programs and the track and field, as well as for recreational facilities.
North Haven is close to finished with renovations with the Law School moving in by September 2014, freeing up its current host on the Mount Carmel campus.