A certain nearby university has been named among the nation’s best schools by U.S. News and World Report, and the research coming from its campus is widely read and nationally acclaimed. Students there proudly boast “Beat Yale” shirts at sporting events, taking our school rivalry quite seriously. No, the college we’re describing isn’t Harvard — it’s our other rival to the North, Quinnipiac University.
Quinnipiac students use the abbreviation QU, but to Yalies it’s better known as Qpac — a nickname students there consider derisive. Some freshmen told me they’ve never heard of Quinnipiac and do not know that it is one of the best institutions of higher learning in the region. They do, however, know the insulting qualities implied by the term “Qpac girl.” I don’t blame these uninformed freshmen — I found out about QU a couple weeks into my freshman year when one of my male friends had to dress up as a Qpac girl for an initiation. Later that night I Googled the phrase, thinking it was an unfamiliar slang term for drag, and I promptly educated myself.
It’s strange that we know so little about QU. Although its campus is a mere twenty minutes away, our spheres only intersect at sports games or on Saturday nights at Toad’s Place. As a result, we end up filling in the gaps with extrapolations, usually in the form of Qpac girl jokes, all of which seem uncomfortably sexist and hypocritical. On any given weekend, it is hard for me to differentiate between the notorious Qpac girls and the Yale students stumbling down York Street in revealing clothing.
To be fair, Yale students have probably been the butt of quite a few pinky-up-tea-drinking jabs at our elitism. But we have not suffered the same degree of disrespect as QU has. In one freshman seminar at QU, students are required to read a 2003 article published in the News that characterizes their school as “a world where beer flows like water and shortages of condoms [happen] due to overwhelming demand.”
Even on the sports field, QU students seem to take Yale much more seriously than we take them. While Yalies focus attention on our rivalry with Harvard, QU students wear their “Beat Yale” shirts year round, even at non-Yale sporting events. Their athletic director talks about how the Quinnipiac-Yale rivalry might one day become just as big as the Harvard-Yale one. Beyond the façade of mock hatred, a rivalry between two schools indicates acknowledgment and respect, something that QU students feel that they’ve been snubbed of.
Between their resentment and our dismissal, we don’t exactly have a healthy relationship with QU. At times, it has even escalated beyond the usual name-calling to fistfights at Toad’s.
But a couple of weeks ago, things took a sickening turn when Chief Ronnell Higgins reported an alleged sexual assault of a QU student by a Yale student. Around the same time, a comment that was posted on the Facebook group Overheard at Yale read, “Qpac girls are so stupid. Like, I bet you could ask one of them ‘Would you like to fornicate?’ and she just wouldn’t understand you at all.” The Facebook post generated a lot of backlash, with Yalies connecting its derisive attitude to Chief Higgins’s report of the assault. But I wonder what the response would have been if that Facebook post had not happened so soon after the report of sexual violence. Would it have gotten lots of likes, with students commenting “lol” and “so true”? Chief Higgins’s email was a chilling reminder that the grotesque caricatures we create of Qpac girls can impact our behavior, preventing us from seeing QU students as peers deserving of our respect.
The problematic QU-Yale relationship stems from a lack of communication and interaction. At Yale it is easy to feel that we live in an isolated bubble, but with QU’s campus less than ten miles away, it cannot be too hard to bring Yalies and QU students together. Both schools frequently do research and community service in New Haven and the surrounding areas, and these sorts of activities are a great way for students to develop relationships built on something more substantive than stereotypes. We can also make an effort to attend more Yale-QU sports games, especially the ones that aren’t in our own arenas.
It may take several years, but with both sides striving for cooperation and respect, we can develop a friendlier relationship. But not too friendly — they won’t go easy on us in the hockey rink, and neither should we.
Maria Wu is a sophomore in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .