Tensions with Hamden remain for QU as growth continues

Hamden Town Hall

Hamden Town Hall

Tensions between Quinnipiac University and the Town of Hamden have been a persistent theme since the 1980s when the school embarked on a decades-long expansion effort that sent enrollment skyrocketing and clashes between residents, students, and local government.

Quinnipiac University took this huge jump once John Lahey became the President in 1987.

Once the university got bigger and more students joined it created a tension with the town and the college as the town of Hamden was beginning to shift from regular Connecticut town to college town.

Through most of the 2000s, Quinnipiac’s enrollment was between 5,000 and 6,000 undergraduate students.  Since that time, the school opened its York Hill Campus in 2007, featuring an athletic center, dorms and a student center less than two miles from its main Mount Carmel Campus.new campus on York Hill, a law school and a campus on North Haven.

The law school was built on the Mount Carmel Campus in the 1990s and moved to the North Haven Campus when that opened with the Frank H. Netter MD Medical School in 2013.

The class that this mostly affects is the senior class.  Quinnipiac does not guarantee housing for seniors there are only 40 percent that have guaranteed housing this 40 percent is determined by a  randomly generated lottery number that only one person on your group has to have for you to select a room.

Many seniors prefer to live off-campus, in either privately owned homes or in houses owned by Quinnipiac in Hamden neighborhoods. That means more students than ever are living off-campus. This has lead to a increase in the amount of students that are living off campus.

According to the website: www.usnews.com 75 percent of the students at Quinnipiac live on campus and 25 percent of students live off campus

With a growing number of students living in off-campus housing comes common issues that college aged students bring for a small town like Hamden.

Hamden town planner Daniel Kops said “the town does face issues with residents who complain about student behavior in residential neighborhoods.”

One of the most common issues that Hamden faces with student housing is partying and specifically loud noise complaint.

Hamden Police Department

Hamden Police Department

Hamden police said that they had been called a total of 81 times in 2017 and 2018 to address noise complaints or reports of loud parties.

Kops said the most students who live in the community are quiet and fit into the neighborhoods.Some, he added, do not.

"Most students don't cause behavioral problems but there are some that do and their parties are really disruptive," Kops said. "There can be trash left everywhere and police called and they can give a bad name to student housing in general.”

Students living on campus have a much different experience as students living off-campus.  While on-campus they’re under the jurisdiction of the University and have clear rules and guidelines to follow.  If you live off campus students know that there is a certain way you have to conduct yourself so that there won't be issues with the town and neighbors.

Patrick Brooks a senior who lives off-campus in Hamden said, “If I ever have an event at my house I notify all my neighbors and ensure that they don’t call in a noise complaint.  I live in a quiet neighborhood,”

Students living off-campus can also affect the look of the small residential streets in Hamden

"If you have around in some of the residential areas you can see how concentrated it is," said Kops. "You can see right away where students are living, and it changes the character of the residential neighborhoods since students have a different lifestyle and schedule as a retired couple of a couple with young children (might not)."

Student Housing with multiple cars in driveway

Student Housing with multiple cars in driveway

The ever-growing class sizes have created hurdles for both on and off-campus housing.

Residential life is an important part of the Quinnipiac experience, according to university officials. (Note: faculty aren't involved in residential life; administrators, though, are, and the new president Judy Olien has said that student experience is at the core of her plans.Quinnipiac's director of residential life, Mark Devilbiss , is responsible for housing. He said his job is to provide the structure for students to enjoy a positive experience while living on-campus or off it, a task made more difficult as the university continues to grow and requires more student beds.

"We're a residential campus," said Devilbiss. "We expect students to get a lot from being on campus. We believe students can get a lot from living on campus because they can interact with people who are different from them. We also think it can help their communication skills."

Quinnipiac's student body and class sizes have grown along side its reputation. The university's first-year class has grown each year for a decade

"We've had to adapt over time to different class sizes," said Devilbiss. "A couple of years ago, we increased the number of beds that were available for first-year students, and that's been important."

Residential life reconfigured dorms for first-year students to fit eight people. That made it possible for all students to live on campus.

The university has also added bunk beds to dorms to increase capacity.

Moreover, Quinnipiac has moved to reduce tensions with the town through other means. Over the past two years, the university has given Hamden $2.9 million to offset municipal costs associated with off-campus student life, according to an article posted in The New Haven Register.According to an article in the “New Haven Register” last year Quinnipiac donated 1.5 million dollars to the town of Hamden and 1.4 million dollars the previous year.

Former president Lahey sought approval from the university's Board of Trustees to make the payment as a way to build trust with the town and help with its finances. Under state law, non-profit organizations such as Quinnipiac do not pay property taxes, a fact that enrages some residents.

"It's one tangible way for us to tell the town of Hamden thank you," said Lahey in the article. "Towns are strapped these days with the state cutting back and elsewhere with pressure not to increase property taxes more than they have to. It's another way that we can contribute and hopefully show that we're not only thankful but we're good corporate citizens in the towns that we're located."

Quinnipiac University and Hamden also have some ideas to try and put the students in a more controlled area.

Kops said, “ We are trying to find ways to improve relations and we are exploring the possibility a zone that has apartments and places to eat and stores and this would be attractive to students and it would be walking distance and this way they could be there instead of spread out in the residential areas.”

Even though recent moves to strengthen the relationship between Quinnipiac and Hamden seem to be working, much more work needs to be done address the needs of the university and residents of the town.

The university is planning to build new dorms on its York Hill Campus to help reduce tensions.