One of the biggest selling points of Fairfield is the fact that students can live in a house by the beach their senior year. Each year, approximately 500 seniors flock to the beach for living accommodations. However, living on the beach comes with an added responsibility to be respectful of neighboring residents from the town of Fairfield.
Despite the fact that a reported eight mailboxes of Fairfield residents were destroyed, according to the Dean of Students Office, the co-president of the Beach Residents Organization Sean Tobin ’17, commented that he “is confident that [the University students] are respectful of their neighbors and responsible.”
Tobin believes that the damage was not caused by beach residents.
“The beach residents, or at least the ones I know, are not so irresponsible that they would do that kind of damage,” continued Tobin, “I believe that it was done by a guest. Maybe not even by a Fairfield student.”
Assistant Director of Residence Life Pejay Lucky, who oversees and supervises the Beach Resident Advocacy Group, agreed, commenting, “From what I understand, those were not Fairfield University seniors responsible for those mailboxes.”
Lucky believed that the relationship between students and town residents is overall a positive one.
“I’ve spoken with some neighbors and some beach residents and I’ve heard a lot of good things when it comes to people connecting with others,” Lucky continued. “I think some of the issues aren’t necessarily the fault of the seniors that live there.”
Regardless, the town of Fairfield is enforcing guidelines on the University students to ensure that the amount of students living in each house does not exceed four.
Fairfield Beach Residents Association President Charles Abercrombie, who has lived at the beach since 1997, commented that he tries to be optimistic about relations between full-time and part-time beach residents.
“You see the same issues year in and year out,” said Abercrombie. “Large gatherings, property being destroyed and noise issues have been issues since before I moved here, and they have continued up until now. In the end, if everyone respects their neighbors, there won’t be any issues.”
Tobin echoed these sentiments. “What it comes down to is a matter of respect,” he said. “I’m confident that the members of the class of 2017, who are living on the beach, understand that.”
Despite various issues, Abercrombie believed that the current relationship is overall a positive one.
“Currently it’s a good relationship,” Abercrombie continued, “but the year remains to unfold so we’ll have to see. We had a good meeting with student representatives at the town hall and a good meeting with the school held at the Quick Center … There have still been incidents at the beach. This creates problems, so there are two sides of the coin.”
Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara also believed that the relationship is still up in the air.
“We’ve seen years where the relationship has improved and we’ve seen times where it’s deteriorated because of increased issues,” said MacNamara. “I’m hopeful, but unfortunately only time will tell.”
Dean of Students Karen Donoghue ‘03, stated that in cases of bad student behavior, the students found responsible will receive the highest level of disciplinary response.
“In addition, students that are not invited to the beach community should not go to the beach,” Donoghue continued. “The beach community is a privilege for those that live there and their invited guests. Uninvited students are ruining the experience for those who have the right to live and socialize in the beach area. There is plenty to do on campus, not to mention downtown on a beautiful day.”
Junior Ellen Arnison explained the appeal of going to the beach despite living on campus.
“I’d guess that any student here would agree that being close to the beach was a contributing factor when they decided on Fairfield,” she said, “and there are only so many warm weekends during the school year, so you might as well make the most of them and get everyone together to party.”
Also highlighting the tensions that have existed between town residents and the University students was the court jurisdiction that tamed the annual Clam Jam event in 2006, according to CT Post. Town residents often had complaints with the event concerning an unreasonable amount of noise, unruly behavior and large crowds, before the jurisdiction. Additionally, last semester, town residents had complaints of overcrowding due to students parking on both sides of Reef Road, which led to the request that students be limited to parking on only one side of the road.
Another reason there is tension between town residents and the University students is the fact that they operate on very different schedules.
“It’s a difference in lifestyle,” said Tobin. “Town residents are working Monday through Friday. The kids living on the beach want to go out. These differences are going to cause controversy. The students know that they are only going to be here for one more year, so they want to live it up while they’re here, but the town residents probably just want to relax.”
However, Donoghue believed that the problems stem from a lack of respect.
“Fairfield University is extremely lucky to live in a community with full time residents, elected officials and law enforcement open to dialogue each year to create a community where both full time residents and Fairfield University students can co-exist in community,” she commented.
“The struggles I witness exist when there is a lack of understanding and respect between the two parties and no desire to seek a common solution through dialogue and compromise,” Donoghue added. “There are some things that cannot be compromised such as loud, unreasonable noise at an unreasonable hour, littering, public urination and disorderly conduct toward others.”
On Sept. 17 there was a large gathering of students on the beach, which resulted in a mass text message being sent to the entire student body stating that on campus students should stay on campus for the day.
Donoghue responded to the event, stating, “I want to remind students that there is a permanent, court-ordered injunction in place that limits any gathering of more than 250 individuals at Lantern Point. The police, with the University’s support, will take all steps necessary to prevent any illegal or unsafe crowds or activities from occurring in the private, residential neighborhoods at the beach.”
Dononghue continued, “Fairfield University strongly recommends that if you don’t live at the beach and you have not been invited to a specific house, do not go to the beach area. Events at the beach area are for seniors that live at the beach and their invited guests.”