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.
Quinnipiac, a private university located about 15 minutes from Yale in Hamden, is for many synonymous with skank. The thought is that Quinnipiac is a world where beer flows like water and shortages of condoms due to overwhelming demand are far more common than a run on microeconomics textbooks at the school bookstore.
For those of you who don’t know, the worlds of the Ivy League and the Tube Top League coexist at the spiritual center of the party scene, Toad’s, New Haven’s only legitimate claim to Cancun-style social relevance. Every Saturday night, busloads of eternal Quinnipiac spring breakers are disgorged from minibuses from which they stagger, bathed in glitter and clad in high heels and little else, to Toad’s.
Watching the Pamplona-like drunken beeline of Quinnipiac students stumble from Toad’s back to the shuttles late one night, I resolved to find out if Quinnipiac really was the sort of place where Snoop Dogg and the “Girls Gone Wild” team could just set up shop and let the cameras role. So, I did what any teenage guy would do: I rode the shuttle back to Quinnipiac.
In my pre-adventure planning, I had never thought that my presence aboard the Shuttle of Sin (affectionately referred to as the “slut bus” by my insightful friend, who took the trip with me) would put me in physical danger. As the crowded shuttle left downtown New Haven, however, the partyers achieved their one moment of cohesion when an intoxicated reveler yelled, “I wish I had peed on more Yale bikes!” and several others laughed in agreement. I saw then that my exercise in self-important elitism should probably be hidden from the others. So we rode. I shut up.
The whole experience was a lot like prom night in high school, but with a lot more skin. Cheesy techno thumped in the background of the tiny bus. Pictures were taken and friends who had not found anyone at the party were consoled. The couple sitting next to me paused only a handful of times from their face-sucking, convinced, I think, that the end of the world was fast approaching and that there wasn’t a hedonistic moment to lose. Only the discussion of frat houses and the actual use of the oh-so-effective “So, you girls are freshmen?” line made me realize where I was.
My “Girls Gone Wild” hopes were dashed.
Arriving at the Quinnipiac campus, the stereotypes so far confirmed, my sober friend and I figured that we should at least find a party, so we walked around, listening for the telltale Nelly beats. I mean, if the school produced partyers of such die-hard devotion that they would actually take a shuttle to dance, drink, and be groped, then they must surely know how to have a good time.
What I saw when I got off the bus was what I least expected: an idyllic, leafy campus. Chirping crickets and a brook flowing through the campus stood in for the Flower Lady outside of Au Bon Pain. As the elite shock troops of the Toad’s expedition dispersed, miniskirts were nowhere to be found. Later on that night, Ali, my cabdriver, said he much prefers Quinnipiac’s tranquil, park-like atmosphere to Yale’s gothic intensity. He had a point.
“Your perception is that we are all slackers milking the money of our parents,” one Quinnipiac junior said. “The average Quinnipiac student is like any other college student. Education is primary. At the same time you need to balance that with having a good time.”
Quinnipiac students, he explained, only take the shuttle because the school is notoriously harsh in its alcohol policy and because Hamden’s nightlife leaves much to be desired. A cab ride without any traffic can cost upwards of 20 dollars each way.
Obviously annoyed at the perception of his school held by many Yalies, he said, “A better question to ask would be how you see yourselves.”
Standing in the cold at 2 a.m. with a tattered notebook, a pen that had managed to bleed through my pants, and no idea what I was going to write my article about, I certainly felt like an idiot.
Quinnipiac junior Nitya Rehani was more to the point.
“It seems that we [Yale and Quinnipiac] don’t like each other too much and students here think that you guys are pretty much all stuck up and think you are better than us,” Rehani said, quickly adding, “Though I’m sure you’re not really like that.”
At least one of us didn’t have to ride a shuttle to realize that last sentence went both ways.