In recent events, and one could argue in recent years, Fairfield students have found themselves under the extremely close supervision of the Fairfield University Administration. As a senior, I would trace this rigidity back to the fall semester of 2020, the start of my sophomore year. COVID-19 hit, and we were inevitably following strict guidelines under the University’s conduct. Despite living on top of each other in the same dorm buildings, we were only allowed two guests in our room at a time. To further hinder our social development, the RecPlex was shut down, and the Daniel and Grace Tully Dining Commons was made grab-and-go style for the majority of the year. We were rendered unable to gather and thus stripped of the opportunity to develop relationships that were formed first-year.
During my junior year, I lived in a townhouse. Long gone were the days of the Department of Public Safety knocking on our doors at 11 p.m. telling us to go back to our respective rooms … or so we thought. Students were generally closed off from any and all interactions. Impenetrable friend groups had been made as a result of isolation the year before. Our social muscles had not been flexed in a while, which created a general sense of social anxiety in daily life. It wasn’t until this year, my senior year, that I noticed people finally open to pre-pandemic socialization. However, it seems that not even the seniors living off campus are free from the University’s stringent regulations.
This is the first year that we are truly liberated from the social norms that plagued us during the pandemic. College students are finally regaining confidence and freedom in socializing as a natural form of development. This being said, many people, especially the underclassmen, have not had adequate opportunities to learn how to interact healthily in a party setting, a crucial step that is learned early on in a college experience. In regards to on-campus living, it doesn’t seem that the social scene has improved. One sophomore said, who wishes to remain anonymous, “I think that the school cares more about restricting the bonding time and overall enjoyment of their students rather than their actual safety.”
Life off-campus has proved to be different until the infamous Santa Con situation of 2022. Santa Con can arguably be deemed the first “normal” beach party to occur since the pandemic began. Thousands of students, affiliated with Fairfield University, and many unaffiliated, flocked to the beach. The large crowds created chaos and left the surrounding area in disarray. In the following days, the student body’s inboxes were full of emails with ominous warnings of future consequences to be had. Two months later, the student body received an email from Dean Johnson on Feb. 13th. He states that the “University’s decision,” or ramifications surrounding the affairs of Santa Con will ultimately affect Clam Jam. Seniors and Juniors are prohibited from buying extra tickets for friends outside of Fairfield.
Furthermore, Sham Jam celebrations were restricted for all grades. Seniors were encouraged to stay off the beach and go to the Grape, despite a limited amount of tickets being sold. Juniors are restricted to the townhouse area for a “limited amount of students to gather and socialize,” per Dean Johnson’s email. Students are forced to a designated place that does not even have enough room for the whole grade. In the same email, one statement explains that “Impromptu gatherings in other parts of campus will be closely monitored.” The freedom to gather with friends and partake in normal weekend activities has been taken away completely.
As a community, I believe we should consider a few questions. If the administration feels that the events of Santa Con necessitate a consequence, should the seniors be punished, even though those living on The Point who had no control over the masses? Is it possible that the chaos of Santa Con was a result of students finally having freedom after so much time under strict regulation?
A few students shared their thoughts on the subject, and it seems that similar opinions are held across each grade. Sean Sullivan, a current senior said, “It’s an unfair punishment since the Fairfield seniors were not the ones who created the Santa Con disaster. There were many outsiders who came and disrespected the beach.” Clay Edmonds, another senior living off campus said, “Freshman year at Fairfield was my favorite year throughout my entire college experience … It seems as though the university is trying to strip away what is quintessentially the ‘college experience.’”
Overall, social life at Fairfield University has been a whirlwind. As a graduating senior, I’ve seen the implications of expecting students to act like adults while implementing rules that are suitable for children. Supervision of this kind is not warranted for college-aged students, and taking away social freedoms is detrimental to their development. I argue that it leads to outbreaks such as the one at Santa Con. As the pandemic proved, the effects of close monitoring and prohibition of socialization are lasting. I hope to see improvements in the way the administration handles future events, and that students are granted the ability to grow and learn from their social experiences without hindrance.