After last year’s controversial Clam Jam, the university has big changes in store for Fairfield’s most anticipated party of the year.
Historically, Clam Jam has been organized by students; this is the first year the event will be university sponsored, due to an agreement between the university and the Beach Residents Advocacy Group, which acts as a representative for students living at the beach.
This transition comes after years of tension between students and town residents over Clam Jam, especially after a court injunction back in 2001 limited the amount of people permitted on Lantern Point to 250.
Perhaps the most notable change coming to the tradition is the movement from the Point to Penfield Beach, less than half a mile down the road. This year, because the event will be at Penfield, more students can legally attend.
“The biggest change is that you’ll be allowed to be there,” said Storm Miller ‘15, president of BRAG. “It’s a ticketed event, so if you get a ticket, you’re guaranteed to be able to stay.”
Having the event at Penfield Beach also means that students will be on the actual beach, as opposed to the Point where security in the past has prevented beach access.
In addition to the location, BRAG has been working with the university to coordinate a concert for students during the event, with three opening acts performing throughout the day. According to Miller, the concert artists will be announced on April 18.
In wake of all the big changes, not everyone is happy with the way this year’s Clam Jam is being planned. Senior Brian Alexander said he thinks the planning process should have involved more students.
“I just know that I never voted for anyone in BRAG, I’ve never was invited to join BRAG by a group email,” Alexander said, “that would have been the best way to make it an open dialogue, is allow more people to join it.”
The issue of transparency and communication has already affected the information distributed to students.
“They had said all seniors were free [to get into Clam Jam], then limited it down to 500 without really any notice,” Alexander said. “There wasn’t really too much of a student input besides the three people who were at the meeting [Miller, Ellie Goepel and Kevin Gavin].”
Alexander isn’t the only student worried about Clam Jam. Sophomore Vicki Law said she is worried “that there is not enough tickets for all of the students that would like to attend.”
This concern is not unfounded. In a Clam Jam meeting for seniors on Tuesday, Miller said that there were 1,500 tickets for the event. While he said that upperclassmen shouldn’t have any problems getting tickets, “we don’t expect many underclassmen to be there.”
Despite all of these concerns, Miller said he is optimistic that the event will be a success.
“I think everyone knew there had to be a change after last year, and this was the best option,” he said.
Last year’s Clam Jam was marked by an overwhelming police presence, including the private security firm G-Force, that many attendees considered aggressive.
“I understand the reasoning behind hiring the security and having the police presence but it took away something so special that Fairfield students look forward to all year,” said Vicki Law. “I thought that it was excessive; there were guards almost every 3 feet.”
The extensive security cordon last year was a catalyst for the change in venue.
“Last year’s Clam Jam was a major disappointment for my entire class and will be remembered for its failure to live up to the expectations set by those before it,” said Former FUSA President Alex Long ‘14.
Miller reinforced this during the Clam Jam meeting, where he said that the Lantern Point Association plans on having similar tightened security this year, just in case.
“The reality is, if we go to the Point this year, it’s going to be worse than last year,” Miller said.
While Miller said a private security firm has not been hired yet for the event, he stressed that it will not be as aggressive as last year.
“G-Force, they were working for the Point last year, so obviously they were getting paid by the Point so they had to do what the Point wanted,” he said, “but if we decide to go with G-Force they’ll be working for us, so … it won’t be an issue.”
The biggest test for this year’s Clam Jam will be how it measures up to the Fairfield tradition. Miller said he isn’t worried about that.
“I think we can all be steeped in history but at the end of the day, if we wanted to stay in history we wouldn’t progress at all,” he said.
The university maintains a similar outlook as Miller when it comes to the event.
“I am cautiously optimistic about this year’s Clam Jam, which I see as an approach whose time has definitely come,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Pellegrino ‘90. “The idea here is to make something that is memorable, enjoyable, safe and sustainable.”
Clam Jam will be April 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Penfield Beach. Shuttles will run continuously between campus and Penfield during that time. Tickets are available for juniors and graduate students on April 6-7 and for sophomores and first year students from April 8-10 for $40, and can be purchased through the online store. Tickets include a free food voucher and attendees over 21 will have free access to beer and cider. More information about Clam Jam will become available later in the semester.