Administrators touch on tuition, student behavior at Lahey-less State of the QUnion

By on March 24, 2016

Tuition, student behavior, space on campus, diversity and the curriculum were the hot-button topics at Student Government Association’s annual State of the QUnion on Wednesday.  

From left to right: Vice President and Dean of Students Monique Drucker, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Salvatore Filardi, Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson, Student Body President Jonathan Atkin, and Student Body Vice President Carly Hviding speak in front of students at the State of the QUnion. Julia Gallop

From left to right: Vice President and Dean of Students Monique Drucker, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Salvatore Filardi, Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson, Student Body President Jonathan Atkin, and Student Body Vice President Carly Hviding speak in front of students at the State of the QUnion.

Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Salvatore Filardi, and Vice President and Dean of Students Monique Drucker met in the Piazza to field questions from SGA members and students about the state of the university.   

For the first time, President John Lahey did not attend the State of the QUnion. Student Body President Jonathan Atkin said he did not invite Lahey, not because he didn’t want him there, but because Atkin wanted students to get the opportunity to get to know other administrators better.

“A lot of the questions that we were going to have at this event were going to be kind of similar to what we had last year,” Atkin said. “And I thought it would be beneficial to have the people who are on [Lahey’s] cabinet, who are working in those specific roles, to be the ones to answer them and get some facetime with the students.”

This was not the only change to the State of the QUnion this year. Students were also able to ask the panelists direct questions at the end of the event, instead of submitting questions to SGA.

Tuition

Vice President for Finance Chris Desilets asked the administrators about the increase in tuition and what the university will do with this money to help the student body. Quinnipiac has increased the cost of tuition each year for several years now. Next academic year, tuition and fees will cost $41,190. In the 2012-2013 academic year–when this year’s seniors were freshmen–tuition was $38,000.

“This coming year and last year in particular, the tuition increases are the smallest that I have seen,” Thompson said. “And that really is an attempt to keep a lid on things and not be too aggressive in raising the prices and at the same time have what we need in revenues to provide programming.”

Students’ tuition dollars go to improving the quality of resources at the university, in particular for faculty and staff, bettering facilities, enhancing student programming, and financial aid need, Thompson said. More than half of the incremental revenues from tuition and room and board increases go toward additional financial aid, he said.

Student behavior

Student behavior on and off campus frequently came up throughout the event, with the panel expressing that they want students to have fun, but in a safe and responsible way.

Some students have knocked down mailboxes or stolen items in Hamden, Filardi said, which hurts the university’s relationship with the town. Filardi said this has caused Quinnipiac to have issues getting approval for new athletic fields on campus. This in turn, the panel explained, has pushed back plans to bring club sports to campus.

“We go fix [the mailbox], but that’s really not good enough from [a Hamden resident’s] perspective,” Filardi said. “And that causes us a lot of problems when we’re trying to get new projects approved. … It might be funny to break something, but it really does have a negative effect on the big picture of things.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson addresses students.Julia Gallop

Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson addresses students.

But sometimes students put themselves in danger. The number of times students have been transported to the Yale/New Haven Hospital for drinking too much have spiked this academic year, Thompson said.

“We’re a community that cares very much about our students and as much as we want you to have fun we want you to be safe doing it,” he said. “So you’re kind of on the front line in terms of watching out for your peers, so you’re our first line of defense. You see a friend or someone who’s overdoing it, please encourage them to take it a little bit easy and stay with them, make sure they’re safe, make sure they don’t wander off by themselves.”

Student spaces

Yet, there are also things the university should do to keep students safe, Thompson said. That includes improving student programming on the weekends and providing spaces for students to hang out.

Filardi said when the university does preliminary designs for a housing expansion on York Hill, it looks at creating lounge spaces for students. But there is currently no schedule to build housing or lounge spaces on York.

One idea that SGA and the administration has continuously examined is having a coffee shop on campus. But Filardi said the coffee shop isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

“When you added up all the things [SGA and students wanted] it wasn’t something something a coffee lounge could do,” he said. “So I think what we tried to do is make sure we don’t really make a space that’s good for everything, that actually turns out would be good for nothing.”

Vice President and Dean of Students Monique DruckerJulia Gallop

Vice President and Dean of Students Monique Drucker

However, Drucker said she knows students really want this space.

“Although we might be limited in our current existing space to do that, it’s important that you know that the need and the desire for student lounge space has not gone unheard,” she said.

Diversity

Thompson also delved into a topic that he says he has been focused on this academic year: diversity on campus. The campus is becoming more diverse, he said, with 18 percent of students identifying as people of color and 8,858 people of color applying this year to attend Quinnipiac. That’s about 1,000 more than last year.  

“I’ll tell you that just being diverse is not enough,” Thompson said. “It’s taking advantage of the fact that we are more diverse.”

To figure out how to do this, Thompson has been meeting with student groups to get ideas on programming. Many students told him they wanted their professors to be better trained on diversity, privilege, microaggressions and how to discuss these issues in the classroom. The university will be holding programs with 30 to 35 professors and staff members to train professors. Thompson said these sessions will be expanded to more faculty and staff if they go well.

The Faculty Senate also approved new general education requirements, which includes having students take two courses that have a cultural understanding designation. This is a step in the right direction, but Thompson said he’s not completely satisfied. Students should learn about different cultures throughout their entire college careers, he said.

“That’s kind of like you take those two courses and it’s done,” Thompson said to The Chronicle after the event. “But it’s not something you can ever be done with…So I think it needs to be more pervasive throughout the curriculum and that ought to be a component of in-class experiences and out-of-class experiences and a variety of other opportunities to really get a sense of what different experiences mean.”

First Year Seminars

Thompson is also looking to improve the First-Year Seminar (FYS) class, the course that replaced the QU Seminar series this academic year. Thompson said during the event that he’d give the effectiveness of the FYS course a B- or C+ grade, although he joked to The Chronicle after the event that he probably shouldn’t have given it a grade.

SGA members and some students attended Wednesday's event. Julia Gallop

SGA members and some students attended Wednesday’s event.

“That’s not to say it was a total disaster,” Thompson said at the event. “I’m not going to say that. …I get mixed reviews and, as I say, there will be a lot of investment going into the course of the summer to improve it in the fall and I’m optimistic it’ll be a better experience going into this fall of 2016.”

Students did still gain a better understanding of how essential inquiry is, he said, which is important. Still, whether students had a good or bad experience with FYS depended on their professor, Thompson said, which was also the case for the QU seminar series.  

“I do think we need to focus some more on faculty development and making sure we have the highest quality faculty who are teaching that course,” Thompson said to The Chronicle. “It’s just so critically important as a first-semester course.”

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Year: 2016
Major: Print journalism