Senior year at Fairfield Beach. Every student released. Point Saturdays. Thursday night Nauts. Mind Erasers and Two Dollar Tuesdays at the Grape.
Hurricane Sandy swept in and washed it all away.
As of publication, the approximate 300 students living on the beach are temporarily homeless, many without their clothing and other possessions due to the worst storm in Fairfield’s history.
In summarizing the attitude of many seniors, Kevin Bachman ’13 asked, “Where are we going to go? Are we even going to have our senior year at the beach?”
According to the Office of Residence Life, the town of Fairfield has indicated that all beach houses should be considered uninhabitable. At this time, there is still no power and extensive flooding of the beach area, making it impossible for residents to access their homes.
Once the water recedes, the sand must be removed. Then the homes will be surveyed and if deemed structurally sound, residents will be able to enter and gather up their belongings. The time it will take for this process to unfold is unknown. Police officials estimate it could be weeks, or even months until seniors can reclaim Fairfield’s coveted beach lifestyle.
But life must go on. Classes will resume. But where will the beach refugees going to live?
Students who live in close proximity to the University are encouraged to commute.
Students can live with a friend on campus.
Students can rent a space from a local hotel/motel.
Students can ask the Office of Residence Life for assistance in securing alternate temporary housing, either in residence halls or with faculty, staff, and alumni who have agreed to host students, or in converted lounge spaces.
Nathan Lubich, assistant director of Residence Life, described the situation on campus as “not ideal, but feasible and possible.”
On Wednesday, displaced seniors were sent a survey assessing their needs for on-campus housing. The University will generate housing assignments Nov. 2 and will then inform the students of where they can live.
According to Dean of Students Karen Donoghue, the seniors will be able to move into their new homes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday. They will hopefully be able to resume some sense of normalcy before classes resume on Monday.
Donoghue also commented on the possibility of lounge spaces being converted into temporary living spaces. Any lounge in a residence hall with access to a private bathroom is being considered. These include Loyola Hall, 70 McCormick, Campion Hall, Claver Hall and 42 Bellarmine. She stressed that two friends will always be placed together, leaving no one to have to move in with complete strangers. “It’s a team effort”, she said, to get the University back in operation and to have the seniors situated in their new homes.
Even Fairfield University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., is getting involved in the team effort. He will house four students temporarily in his house located right off campus. In times of disaster, the President and students are working together to move forward.
This temporary housing will be free of charge to the displaced seniors. The University is also working with Sodexo to offer a dining plan with reduced rates for the rest of the fall semester. While the new living situation may not be complete with all amenities, at least the senior class will not be homeless.
Many seniors are left questioning what is going to happen with the money they have paid their landlords.
Many pay rent by semester, leaving roughly two months of rent paid for when they are not actually living there. Then there is the question of the security deposit. Will renters get this money back?
Most beach residents were unaware that they could get renter’s insurance for their homes. Renter’s insurance with flood coverage may cover any charges incurred at a rental off campus, such as a hotel.
Senior Patrick Mingle, resident of Franklin’s Tower, has renter’s insurance for his home. He said it was originally his father’s idea to purchase insurance. “When I bought it, I never thought something like this would happen.” He said his insurance will cover up to $12,000.
Lubich advises students to look closely at their lease to understand their rights and responsibilities. Some student’s have certain obligations regarding flooding worked into their leases. Bachman’s lease states that renters will be reimbursed a specific dollar amount for charges if they decide to stay in a hotel while unable to live in his house.
What students can be reimbursed for is unique for every lease, so it is crucial to review the terms of the lease. Questions should be made directly to landlords.
Seniors Matt Nardella and Nick Biagi, both residents of The Laughing Cow, have had very few conversations with their landlord. They do not have renter’s insurance and are wondering what is going to happen with their security deposit. Their house is severely damaged, with the deck completely torn up and about two feet of water in their first floor at the time of the storm.
Like many other seniors, Nardella evacuated his house with only the necessities. He wonders how the University will expect him to do his work without his books or his computer.
He is also concerned about his living situation in the weeks to come: “As a senior, my sophomore cousin is going to have a better living situation than I am.”
Senior Michael Lanigan’s house, The Frozen Shamrock, is located all the way down Fairfield Beach Road.
Seeing some of his neighbor’s houses fall into the Sound put the situation many seniors are in into perspective. “Losing the back wall of our garage, having two feet of sand on our first level, and missing a couple windows on the Sound side now seems silly compared to the damage our neighbors endured.”
The storm surge ripped the whole bottom porch off Paige Manacek’s house, the Shangri La, leaving the upper porch luckily still standing. “It’s just awful that this is what many people’s senior year has come down to”, she says. “I personally don’t want to live in Gonzaga or any other dorm again.” She understands that the University is in a tough situation to try to find housing for the seniors, but is optimistic about returning to the beach once her house is repaired.
One of the most recognizable houses located on the Lantern Point deck is the Vatican, which is now missing the entire front wall. Vatican resident Kevin Reda ‘13 said, “There was a lot more damage than I ever thought was possible.” They hope to one day return to their house, but for now will be placed in on-campus housing.
“I feel that Dr. Reed, Dr. Pellegrino, Dean Donoghue, and the Office of Residence Life have been working very hard to help students find housing,” he said. “It is an unprecedented situation for the University to try and house that many seniors, but I really appreciate the efforts they are making.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas C. Pellegrino is confident that the short term and intermediary plans will meet the needs of the beach student population. Looking ahead “involves looking at how weather events such like this are becoming much more common place and how we will need to continually adapt our processes and infrastructure to respond to them.”
Most seniors are optimistic about the future and hope to return to their houses once they are repaired, even if this means waiting until second semester.
While the Class of 2013‘s senior year at the beach may have been temporarily swept out to sea, Bachman urged his classmates to come together and remember that “at least we’re all in the same boat.”