Fairfield University administration warned students about the preventative measures being taken this year both through an email and the implementation of new protocols and events. The new procedures attempt to ensure that a repeat of last year’s “SantaCon” does not occur.
In anticipation for this year’s event, which is slated to take place on Dec. 9, Dean of Students William Johnson, Ph.D. addressed the impact of the annual holiday gathering in an email sent to the student body on Nov. 30.
“In the aftermath of this event, the University has been working closely with the Town of Fairfield and residents in the beach area to implement measures to prevent a similar episode from occurring this year,” Johnson states.
A joint release from then-First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick and the university noted that the Dec. 10, 2022 gathering on Lantern Point garnered attendance from an “estimated 1,000 partygoers… [with] students from Sacred Heart University, Quinnipiac University and other schools arriv[ing] by train, bus, ride shares and with many parking at Veterans Park and Reef Road.”
Junior Erin Dugan comments on the influx of students from other universities.
“It was mainly people from other schools in the area and not the students from Fairfield University who created the out-of-control party,” she declares.
The massive crowds placed stress on local resources, including emergency response capabilities and public works. Lt. Mike Paris of the Fairfield Police Department noted that the Fairfield Police Department (FPD) “received one call for trespassing, four for breach of peace, 22 for ambulance transportation due to incapacitation by alcohol and issued three infractions for urinating in public.”
The joint statement revealed that FPD and university staff members met on the morning following the event. The meeting provided an opportunity to review what had happened and identify ways to improve going forward.
Johnson noted that “the Town has developed an operational plan utilizing local law enforcement to essentially shut down any activity that has the potential to escalate to an event like last year.
He reinforces that “students should anticipate a strong law enforcement presence, acting on any violations of local law (e.g., noise ordinance, underage alcohol consumption, open containers, etc.).”
Additionally, the University has introduced new events to provide alternative outlets to celebrate the holiday season. The Office of Student Engagement unveiled Winter Fest, a nine-day-long series of events throughout December.
Specifically, Winter Wonderland is a student-only event that will feature a beer garden, live music and other food options. The event will be held Dec. 9 from 12 to 4 p.m., which coincides with SantaCon.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) states that the implementation of Winter Wonderland aligns with the university’s efforts to keep students on campus. Still, DPS assures students that they will be prepared to assist individuals in emergency situations.
Likewise, “Christmas Pregame at the Grape” is being hosted during “SantaCon,” which could be viewed as another attempt to ensure that students do not attend activities on the beach.
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Seagrape Cafe and will feature an open bar. Students may purchase tickets through Eventbrite, which lists the event’s organizer as the Beach Residents Association. Tickets originally cost $35, but now are being sold for $15. According to a message in the Class of 2024 GroupMe, the decrease occurred because “a donor has stepped in to drop the price.”
Senior Hannah Collins, a current beach resident, expressed her concerns on behalf of her peers.
“I’m sad about the changes because celebrating ‘SantaCon’ at the beach is a tradition,” she shared.
“It would be better if security from Fairfield came and asked us to show our Stag Cards,” Collins continued. “Students from other schools came and ruined it. It never should have been this big.”
Last year, The Mirror reported on the consequences students faced due to the chaos that ensued during “SantaCon” 2022. Dean Johnson revoked access to guest passes for Clam Jam, sharing that “individuals who are not current Fairfield University students will be unable to gain admittance” to the annual Spring concert. Ultimately, Clam Jam was canceled 26 minutes prior to the event’s start time due to inclement weather.
The university has yet to announce if any disciplinary actions will take place if this year’s “SantaCon” sees a similar outcome to last year’s festivities. Johnson urges students to take “part to help ensure an uneventful last few weeks before the break.”