“Sham Jam” – a longstanding tradition of Fairfield University students – is an annual St. Patrick’s day themed party. This year, students attended and celebrated the event throughout the entire day on Saturday, March 5, gathering at the townhouses on-campus and the beach off-campus.
While this event is favorable and highly anticipated among students, non-student beach residents found the party to be disruptive.
This reaction is not uncommon, considering the dynamic between students who live off-campus at the beach and the full-time non-student beach residents has been historically tense.
A November 2021 article by the Mirror states that “the Mirror’s website is filled with articles like ‘Beach Resident Relations Not “On Point,’’ ‘Tensions with Beach Residents Alter Uber Policy’ and ‘Town-gown relations: No day at the beach’ that highlight the nearly decades of tension between the two groups.”
To help quell the tensions and make the beach more suitable for its full-time residents, the Fairfield Beach Residents Association was established in the 1950s. Today, the FBRA acts as an advocacy group that tries to “band together against beach erosion, beach beautification and just working to maintain the areas as much as they can,” according to the November 2021 Mirror article.
Carolyn Kamlet, the president of FBRA, spoke with the Mirror about Sham Jam and stated that “there was a great difference between this particular event and the two previous very large events.”
The first event that she described is the “white out” party, which happens traditionally on the night before the first day of fall semester classes. The white out usually falls over Labor Day Weekend and students who attend dress up in all-white outfits, gathering at the Point and beach area. The second event that Kamlet described is “SantaCon,” which occurs in December during the weekend before finals. This is a heavily anticipated event by students and those who go dress in Christmas sweaters and other festive attire.
Kamlet attributes the “great difference” between Sham Jam and the other two big events to there being multiple rumors that were heard by beach residents. Such rumpus, she says, allowed beach residents to prepare for the party to happen. These preparations were not made for the white out party at the start of the fall semester, nor SantaCon at the end of last semester. Kamlet further stated that things were “more calm” this time around.
Typically, the Lantern Point Association, which overlooks the residents and houses located within Lantern Point on Fairfield Beach Road is required to hire security starting in April to manage beach gatherings, according to Kamlet. Due to the warning the LPA received about Sham Jam, however, they were able to hire both security for the event and a cleanup crew following the event.
In addition to this, there were more officers on duty, Kamlet said, as well as around 50 trash cans located on the Point for people to use to dispose of their trash.
“We were told Fairfield University would be using their vehicles to go up and down Fairfield Beach Road and Reef Road, as well as the Fairfield Police Department,” Kamlet said.
She added that the University communicated, they would “message their students a lot” about what is expected of them when coming to the beach area.
When describing the relations between student attendees of Sham Jam and the hired security, Kamlet said, “I know from inside Lantern Point the students were tough, but the security was also tough.”
President of the Lantern Point Association, Brian Russell, was on-site at the Point for the duration of the event. He told the Mirror that there were two distinct groups of attendees.
“There was a group of students who were respectful, having fun, but behaving appropriately,” Russell said. “Then there was a larger than I would have hoped group of students that were highly disrespectful.”
He added that, “the majority of students who were partying on the beach and in the vicinity of the Forgotten Path were disruptive to the community.”
Both Kamlet and Russell heard complaints from residents after the event.
Russell said the majority of the complaints he heard focused on the litter that was on the beach area nearby Lantern Point, along with a few noise complaints.
Though Kamlet heard little complaints of any activity at the Point, which she attributes to the security that was stationed there, she heard many complaints from full-time residents that live adjacent to the Point.
“When I walked the beach a nine o’clock on Sunday morning [these areas] were pretty much a mess,” Kamlet said.
Kamlet added that one resident did send her a video along with a complaint they had.
The video showed a “young renter going onto someone’s private property and urinating on someone’s home.”
“I hate saying that sentence. I hate the fact that it existed,” she said. “It’s hard for me to believe that persons anywhere in their twenties or even 18 — I mean, we’re not talking toddlers, we’re talking adults — why they would think that was appropriate.”
Kamlet said she understands needing to perform a bodily function, but noted, “If you’re not invited somewhere you can use the restroom, then perhaps you’re in the wrong location.”
Russell explained to the Mirror that the security hired ensured that everyone who entered the Point area was either a resident or had a valid guest pass. Each house on the point receives four guest passes, Russell stated, which allows for non-residents of the Point to come and enter this area.
Due to the tight security, most of the actual partying occurred to either side of the Point by students.
Russell shared that each year the Point has “security throughout the fall and throughout the spring. That’s unchanged and the plan remains the same this year.”
This tight security was to ensure that the Point did not go over the 250-person capacity allowed to gather on the common areas of Lantern Point, which includes any areas within the Point outside of the homes; the sidewalks, the deck, entryway, etc. are all included in these common areas.
Lantern Point has a court-order injunction that prevents having more than 250 students on the common property of the area.
Relating to the injunction, Kamlet explained that, “while that may not be the students’ responsibility or renters’ responsibility, it would be the association’s responsibility and they could go to court.”
Russell said that, “we caught so many students that would essentially do this thing where they would invite kids into their house and then reuse the guest passes they have.” He added that it was a “constant process of trying to monitor and prevent them” from doing this and there was a “constant stream of turning them away.”
Kamlet said “students should protect their Lantern Point Passes like it’s your driver’s license.”
She added that there are signs all throughout Lantern Point “that say that Fairfield police are welcome on that side at any point to disperse crowds, and, if there’s a big crowd, ask ‘Do you live here? Show me your ID.’”
Russell stated that there were “certainly students gathered inside of Lantern Point” as residents and any guests who have guest passes are allowed to do so. He then added that “the disruptive party goers were outside” of the Point property.
He also told the Mirror that there wasn’t trash in front of Lantern Point as it was “pretty well contained,” but mentioned that there was trash on either side of the Point, corroborating complaints received by Kamlet.
Russell himself said he has been renting for 23 years and he finds it shocking “how disrespectful students are.”
He mentioned that they swear at him personally and “they talk about their ‘rights.’” He continued to say, “they seem to not have an understanding of the rights of the people who live around them and they also seem to not have an understanding of the rights of the common area property owners have.”
Over the weekend, Russell explained that there was one student who told him he wasn’t aware of the rules surrounding resident and guest passes at Lantern Point and when he “looked up who had signed for the passes for [the student’s] house, [the student] had personally signed for his house.”
“So he lied to my face,” Russell said.
According to Russell, “students have been highly disruptive this year.”
There has been damage to the public property on the Point itself this year meaning the common area property as well as the beach area Russell said. “You know there’s been many, many, many reports of public urination. We’ve actually had reports of public defecation, which is far worse.”
He added that students this year have been “very disrespectful to the neighborhood and to the property and to the environment.”
“We essentially decided that if they can’t control themselves, if they can’t have the discipline to behave appropriately in a community, then we will have to have more security to ensure that the community is not damaged, that the property is not damaged and that they are not behaving inappropriately in public spaces.”
Russell shared that he loves Fairfield University and its students and was a Stag himself. He even met his wife at the University.
But this love he has does not mean he is not disappointed in the way they behave themselves in areas such as Lantern Point.
“I must hear 100 times a year that, ‘We’re adults,’” Russell said. “If you want to be one, if you think you are and if you want to be treated as an adult, then you should behave as an adult.”
He explained that after instances like a recent one on the Point, in which someone lit a fire on the deck that “has the potential to burn the whole complex down” and did cause damage to the fences between some houses, students then opt to tell him, “We’re just college kids.”
“You are allowed to be college kids, but that doesn’t mean you can vandalize, that doesn’t mean you can light a fire,” Russell said.
As the weather gets warmer, more gatherings at the beach are bound to occur. The Mirror will continue to update on full-time resident and beach student relations.