The senior class is now settled into their beach houses or on-campus living corridors and are ready for the many senior events and activities. But before they can enjoy the fun, the events must be organized and paid for, which hasn’t been going as planned this year.
The Fairfield University Beach Resident Organization is an organization that puts together events for the senior class that are not officially affiliated with the university. Although it is called the “Beach” Resident Organization, this group plans events that the entire senior class can attend, including off-campus and on-campus residents.
Some of the most memorable annual events organized by the BRO includes Mock Wedding, where a bride, groom and wedding party are selected from the senior class to put on a fake wedding, with a ceremony at the beach and a reception to follow. Another event is Sham Jam,a celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day at the Seagrape Cafe. Some of these events have really embodied what senior year is like at Fairfield University.
Having these fun events does come at a price. Each event has a cost, but the BRO gives the option for students to pay dues upfront, for a later discounted price for each event. The dues come to $140 per student. Another benefit to paying the dues is that if your whole house pays, you have the ability to host a “Naut”: a senior-only party every Thursday night at a different off-campus house where BRO provides beverages and cups.
Once the dues announcement was made in August to the BRO Facebook group, a flood of questions and concerns came from the members. The treasurer of BRO, Deanna Casazza, explained in the initial dues announcement that if you pay the dues of $140, you will end up spending a discounted $270 for all events at the end of the year, instead of the $285 a non-due payer will pay. This caused confusion and had people asking if due payers had to pay an additional $270 on top of the $140 for a total of $410, which BRO president Jennie Toutoulis ’20 accidentally confirmed in the Facebook group but then quickly took back to clarify that the $270 would include the initial due payment of $140.
“That was my bad!” Toutoulis writes in the Facebook group. “Due payers will pay the initial $140 and can expect to pay an additional ~$130 in tickets, for the total of a maximum $270.”
Many questions arose about the Thursday night Nauts and who was allowed to attend them. Students wondered if they could still attend the Nauts if they did not pay dues or if they lived on-campus, to which the BRO board clarified via Facebook that all senior students can go to the Naut, but only students who live in a house of all due payers can host one.
“All seniors can attend Nauts, the due rule is simply just for who can actually host,” Toutoulis writes on Facebook.
Despite the initial confusion and miscommunication, senior on-campus resident Megan Murphy decided she still wanted to pay the dues.
“In my mind, it’s an investment in BRO, because the more money they have from dues, the more events they can do,” Murphy said. “Also, I know I’m a broke college student… so paying the money upfront now would be less money that I’m paying for in May.”
It wasn’t until the BRO announced, on Facebook, their first event, a Boardy Barn themed party at the Seagrape on Sunday, Sept. 22, that Murphy and many other due payers felt disappointment. The cost of going to this event was $20 for non-due payers and due payers. Murphy was under the impression that due payers received a discounted price for all events, and was confused why there was no price difference here.
After many upset students commented on the Facebook post reflecting that confusion, President Jennie Toutoulis made a clarifying announcement, explaining that this Boardy Barn event was not a traditional BRO event, so the price would be the same for due and non-due payers. For more traditional events, like Mock Wedding and Sham Jam, due payers would receive the discount they were promised.
“I just felt that there was a lot of miscommunication about what you were getting from the dues… they specifically said so many times ‘if you pay, you get discounts for events;’ all BRO events, not just traditional events, which is what they’re saying now,” Murphy said.
Murphy also felt that the timing was not right for this event to be announced. Murphy had just paid the $140 dues the day before, and then to see this event where due and non-due payers were to pay the same amount, was upsetting to her and made her question the actual benefits of paying dues.
After expressing her frustrations with the BRO, Murphy had a discussion with Jennie Toutoulis, who offered to give her the $140 back if she no longer wanted to be a due payer, which Murphy agreed to.
“I think they’re just not communicating well, and I think that comes out of a place where they’re not really sure what they’re doing and they’re trying to learn as they go,” Murphy said.
President of BRO Jennie Toutoulis admits that she had very little direction from years past on how to lead this organization.
“We didn’t really have much guidance from last BRO,” Toutoulis said. “It’s very hard, year to year, everything is so different.”
Toutoulis explains that the guide she received for how to plan events and dues was eight pages long, while the guide she has started to create for next year’s BRO president is already 15 pages. So when a flood of questions and concerns come to her from the entire senior class, she doesn’t have much to guide her on how to manage it.
“It’s super overwhelming,” Toutoulis said. “And obviously we’re students too, we’re interns, we’re juggling our own social lives and our own senior year.”
Toutoulis tells me that the BRO never planned on doing the Boardy Barn party this year, which is why they thought they could promise a price drop on all events for due payers back in August. Toutoulis went to the Grape last Sunday to start planning an Oktoberfest event, when the Grape owner suggested they do the Boardy Barn party that happened last year, where all tickets were priced at $20.
“I had a seven day turn around,” Toutoulis said. “Meanwhile, Oktoberfest is planned two months in advance, Sham Jam: three months in advance.”
Toutoulis admits it was upsetting in the moment to receive so much push back from her classmates after she has worked so hard.
“I was spending hours over the summer making forms and making Google sheets,” Toutoulis said. “I think that’s another thing that hurts when people attack. It’s like, you guys were on the beach one day and I was in a Starbucks on my laptop.”
Toutoulis is also finding it hard to communicate with students through Facebook, where it can be difficult to explain information in detail and tones can get misconstrued. Toutoulis hopes to improve communication with students throughout the year and hopes they can be understanding of the difficulty of her job.
“We’re going to do the best that we can to throw a good senior year, and if you want to come along, great, and if not, you know, keep your opinion to yourself,” Toutoulis said. “But I’m just as much of a 21-year-old who’s trying to have fun as you are.”