Beta

What’s in a name

“I don’t have chlamydia. And since I have no desire to acquire it, it would seem strange, at least according to conventional wisdom, for me to have any interest in Quinnipiac University.” These are the opening words of Jeremy Kutner’s, BR ‘06, infamous op-ed, “The Road to Nowhere (aka Quinnipiac),” published in the Yale Daily News in 2003. Kutner, a Yale freshman at the time, wrote the piece to explore why Quinnipiac University, a private university in Hamden, was “synonymous with skank” at Yale.

He played the role of investigative reporter throughout, describing his journey on the “slut bus,” the transportation of choice for students going to Toad’s. While Kutner concluded that Quinnipiac did not live up to its negative stereotypes, his inflammatory language did more to perpetuate the myth than refute it. As recently as 2010, the essay was mandatory reading in “QU101,” a freshman course at Quinnipiac that discusses “the relationship between individual and community identities.”

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Were it not for the references TO Nelly and tube tops, “The Road to Nowhere” could have been written yesterday. Quinnipiac-bashing is a Yale tradition: From our first night at Toad’s, we learn that the spiky-haired bros and scantily clad babes invading our nightclub are students from “QPac.”

This academic year, we’ve given the school more attention than ever. It began in November, when the Yale Daily News’ Cross Campus blog reported that Dattco, the company that shuttles students from Quinnipiac to New Haven on Saturday nights, had threatened to cut off service to the school after 38 students were cited for public urination in just two months. A follow-up article corrected this statistic (80 to 90 students had actually been cited) and explained that the buses would continue. Between the two reports, Alex Fisher, MC ’14, published an op-ed in the YDN encouraging Yale to purchase Toad’s and shut down the “citadel of vulgarity” that “brings people devoid of class or morality into the heart of our campus and strips normally benign Yale students of their own decency.” Fisher also argued that we should send a garbage truck filled with trash, vomit, and urine to Quinnipiac to repay them for their damages.

But who’s to say that they’re “devoid of class,” and we’re “normally benign”? A recent trip some colleagues and I took to the University of New Haven puts things into perspective. While the details of our late night escapade are another story, suffice it to say we made a mess and didn’t stay long. In just 20 minutes on campus, two of four Yale students urinated on the school’s quad. Yes, that’s a small sample size, but it serves as a reminder that not all of us in the ivory tower are above public urination: Just go to a fraternity party, or the Baker’s Dozen house, or the sports fields (maybe that one’s just me) if you need more evidence. We’re fooling ourselves to pretend that we don’t also cause some of the mess outside Toad’s.

For most, Quinnipiac is the “Jersey Shore” of our college experience—occasionally a guilty pleasure, usually something to make fun of, and always an insult to our intelligence. Our publications do their best to perpetuate the stereotype, though their attacks are usually subtler than Kutner’s and Fisher’s op-eds. The original Cross Campus post appears below a photograph of Quinnipiac shot glasses. Cross Campus also reported in February that a recent list of “best colleges for the socially awkward” included Quinnipiac. The short post begins, “Are Quinnipiac students urinating all over New Haven because they become nervous in social contexts and act out accordingly?”

“QPac,” our abbreviation of choice for the school, is unique to Yale. An anonymous Quinnipiac junior whom I met at Toad’s informed me that she and her friends say “QU,” unless they are acknowledging the stereotype that Yale perpetuates. While the term “QPac” it is not inherently derogatory, our disparaging remarks have given it negative connotations.

It is my hope that referring to Quinnipiac by its proper name will lead us to think deeply about our attitude towards the university. We must realize that not all Quinnipiac students go to Toad’s, and not all of those who do go behave badly. Just as a Wednesday night at Toad’s does not provide a full representation of Yale culture, a Saturday night trip to the same club does not tell the whole story about Quinnipiac.

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I will not pretend to know EVERY-thing about Quinnipiac. I had never heard of the school before coming to Yale, and my only friends there are the ones I have made while writing this. To them, Yale’s stereotype of the school is disappointing and unfair. As the anonymous Quinnipiac junior informed me, “A lot of students here party, but I don’t think it’s any different from other schools.” From what I can tell, she’s right. If that’s the case, then our prejudices stretch far beyond Hamden.

In 2008, former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz published an article in the American Scholar called “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” After over two decades studying and working at Yale and Columbia, Deresiewicz has come to believe that the Ivy League experience leads us to measure personal worth in terms of intellectual ability and academic achievement. Our attitude towards Quinnipiac reflects this. When we criticize the school, we often do so with a tinge of intellectual superiority—they’re not just drunk or slutty, they’re drunken idiots and dumb sluts. I’ve heard these phrases too many times to ignore them.

One of my greatest concerns about our relationship with Quinnipiac University is the particularly derogatory language many students use to describe QU women. Three years ago, when pledges at Yale’s Zeta Psi fraternity stood outside the Women’s Center with a sign that read “We Love Yale Sluts,” the Center’s board immediately threatened legal action. Yet we continue to tolerate phrases like “QPac sluts,” “slobcats,” and the “slut bus.”

Yale is, in many ways, the most open-minded place I have ever been. Growing up in Virginia and attending an all-boys school, I have witnessed racism and misogyny firsthand. At Yale I’m thrilled to live in a diverse community where we treat one another with respect, but I’ve been disappointed to learn how insular that respect can be. When I hear the “Qpac” slurs, I’m reminded of the hateful speech I sometimes heard in my home state; the disdain in our voices is the same. If our tolerance is going to make a difference in the world, we must extend it beyond the Ivy League. Let’s start with Quinnipiac.