Quinnipiac Pledges to Take Anti-Racist Action on Campus

Skylar Haines, Associate Producer

It’s been over a month since George Floyd was murdered, and people all across the world are still demanding action against racial injustice. Now, Quinnipiac University is joining the conversation. This comes after nationwide demands for more anti-racist educational institutions, and students are asking the question of how Quinnipiac fits into this.

Without a doubt we have been part of the problem.

— President Judy Olian

“I think it is no secret that the university, from an administration and student perspective, has ignored the issues of racism on this campus for far too long,” Student Government Association President Sophia Marshall said.

“Without a doubt, we have been part of the problem,” added Quinnipiac University President Judy Olian.

The university hosted a well-attended panel discussion on June 24 where students asked questions to students and administrative leaders about future steps towards “inclusive excellence.”

While the administration is already pledging to take action in the form of educational initiatives on campus, seeking a more diverse applicant pool moving forward for university positions and fostering a culture where students feel comfortable using a reporting system, the panelists urged students to remember they are needed for this change to be effective.

“I received so many emails from people who I’ve never seen at an [multicultural] event… I’m going to find all of those people who took the time to send me an email to see if they’re going to be actively engaged after this moment passes,” Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Don Sawyer said. “We can’t let this be just another moment.”

One of the main concerns is how the current $55 million budget shortfall and the consequential hiring freeze and furloughs will affect the school’s ability to prioritize anti-racist policies.

During the panel discussion, Executive Chair of the Multicultural Student Leadership Council (MSLC) Andrew DePass released the “Washington Witherspoon Plan for Minority Equity and Systemic Change at Quinnipiac University.” He explained that “Washington Witherspoon” was included in the title as a reference to the April 2019 shooting of Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon III, two Black people who were shot by Hamden and Yale officers. Following the shooting, the MSLC requested Quinnipiac make a public acknowledgment along with multiple other student organizations, but they did not. 

In this plan they recognize that 154 of the 1,123 total instructional faculty belong to minority groups, making for a total minority faculty distribution of 13.7%.

Students and faculty echoed DePass’ concern asking the administration when faculty representation and diversity will be a priority. Many are also asking, how can it be a priority with the current budget circumstance.

The administration ensured that there are positions that remain open and are not included in the hiring freeze, also adding that diversity will be a focus throughout the search process.

“I pushed and am pushing on the requirement for us to have anti-bias training or implicit bias training for every person that’s going to be a member of a search community,” Sawyer said.

“I am hopeful that the university will be able to put these issues aside and change policies without cost, make some exceptions to the hiring freeze and hire new faculty, and take action on things that are more cost-effective, such as taking steps to diversify the board of trustees,” added Marshall.

Anyone was allowed to submit questions during the discussion, one question in particular that received a lot of likes was,

If any student and/or faculty was caught doing racist behavior will there be a form to report it?

It is important that the students on campus take ownership of the things that they experience and see, and begin reporting more and demanding action and change

— SGA President Sophia Marshall

“It is important that the students on campus take ownership of the things that they experience and see, and begin reporting more and demanding action and change,” said Marshall, “[and] it is incredibly important that the link and form to report becomes more easily accessible, and that we look at and moderate our policy on prejudice and bias, as it is outdated.”

“If we can centralize this reporting effort and do publicity [around the reporting process], so everyone knows that there’s a place to report everything…it does us a great service to have all of this information in one place.” Sawyer said.

He explained that the information would allow them the ability to analyze and address the issues of discrimination and hatred on campus. Sawyer also recognized that Quinnipiac has to create a culture where students feel comfortable and normalize reporting these situations. 

So what the current administration is asking is, allow us to earn your trust…and hold us accountable.

— Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Don Sawyer

“I think people become more comfortable when they feel they can trust the system. If you have people that feel the system has never worked for them why would they want to report anything?” Sawyer said. “So what the current administration is asking is, allow us to earn your trust…and hold us accountable.”

“Change won’t happen overnight nor will culture be built on one act but that shouldn’t deter us,” said Olian. “This town hall is not about talk. We have work to do.”

Over 50 questions were asked of the panel on Thursday, and the administration has promised to save these and address each one in the near future. 

The university has yet to release any updates on the implementation of the Washington Witherspoon Plan. DePass said the MSLC will make sure to have continued correspondence with the administration in an effort to make minority students’ voices heard.