Dear Fairfield University,
You called me a few nights ago around 7:45 p.m. Sorry, I missed your call. I’m guessing you remember me, or the people working overtime in your alumni office keep good records. But in case you’ve forgotten some of the nitty-gritty, here’s a reminder.
My name is David Nevins, class of 2012. I double majored in new media and international studies, double minored in Anthropology and Latin-American & Caribbean studies. I had a StagCard, several in fact. Some I lost, one I used to get into my dorm in Loyola, another is kept pretty banged up in my desk drawer. I drank, mostly with friends. I gambled, denying my parents’ warning to apply for an RA position in the face of loans that would swallow me whole. I acted, I wrote, I protested, just a bit, not nearly enough. I wrote and performed at Take Back the Night for a few years. I helped Project Peg, your feminist network, with some events. Once, I was photographed for a protest I didn’t even organize. I lived in Brazil for a while, helped build a house in Belize once and spent a majority of my last weekends drunk on your beach. I was fairly well-liked by athletes, Jesuits, artists, faculty, and administration alike. I was safe, cheeky, and when prodded – I stood up.
I stood and walked through graduation without having changed much, Fairfield. Though I drove back to New Hampshire acutely aware of the constancy of a “Fairfield culture” seen as nascent and irredeemable by my peers.
Now we come to this, a rumor of a “ghetto-theme” party gone mass documented and wildly spun out of your control that was picked up by the New York Times. Students names are branded with racism and sexism and new “-isms” your alumni are creating every day to punish these so-called idiots who thought they were being satirical. Seems they weren’t taught very much about satire, Fairfield. Because satire requires self-awareness, and a hint of self-deprecation.
Before the New York Times was capturing our more shameful side, we were also known in another periodical called Boston Barstool Sports. They love us. From what I remember, a few years ago an article by one of our columnists was approved by an editor about the walk of shame. This was cringingly passed around campus like a kissing disease, but was only slowly and begrudgingly cast as shameful after months of protest. The same people that found our other article to be classic, well they don’t know what to make of this. I’ll spare the language for you. They write,
“What kind of du—ss still has these parties? I mean I guess that’s pretty much the definition of a college kid. Not giving a s–t about anything and making mistakes. But to live in the year 2016 and have access to a TV and the internet, and still not be able to anticipate the s–t you’re going to get for going to or hosting a ‘ghetto’ themed party, you have to be bordering on braindead.”
Yeah, I think that is a little rough. Look, I’m not going to pretend I know what happened at the party. I’m not even going to write this under the guise that it definitely happened. But, enough people are talking about this for me to say something. I’ve been to enough beach parties to know how they work. Let me help paint the scene in a less inflammatory way, a cross section of your average beach party go-er.
There was alcohol. A few guys who did pretty well at intramural sports this year played beer pong with a couple of guys studying politics who knew them from living on the same floor in Regis their freshmen year. None of them really felt like going or dressing up too much, but one of the guys on the winning side of the table has a thing for the girl whose roommate is hooking up with the guy who lives in the house throwing the party. She’s in the Honors Program, she’s wearing a wife-beater and tattered jeans and a trucker cap from another party way less offensive in theme than this one. They’re uncomfortable, but it’s hot and they’re drunk enough to ignore the few people in what might be blackface. It’s loud, and they’re too busy taunting each other in the game to hear the chiding riffs on “black lives matter” bouncing around the party. It’s dark and they’re too busy looking to hook up to notice the guy being nursed back to health, after puking off the porch by his friends who drove over to take him home- the one or two minority student who showed up to this thing.
Now, journalists will say this was not a typical party, some sort of racist anomaly at a Catholic university. They will shame us. But I promise you, the demographics were pretty much the same at most New England colleges that night. While not undermining the particularly insidious nature of the party in question, I feel compelled to confess that we were known to enjoy stereotypes at parties pretty regularly. Here are some of the parties I went to, Fairfield. CEOs and Office Hos. Hillbilly Truckers. Geeks and Jocks. I threw a party themed after the Titanic, and drowned the guests with an ice luge at midnight. I met life-long friends of rich and varied histories at these parties, men and women who will be with me for the rest of my life. We all knew what we were getting into, and we just let it go as part of college culture, the air to breathe in the “Fairfield bubble.”
Now I am one of hundreds of thousands of alumni with bubbling opinions about this. To fill you in, the emotions range from indifference to explosive anger. Frankly, the media response to this party is reminding a lot of alumni you exist again. We same alums who mostly have denied your donations every year, now hold a burning torch of Stag passion. We rant about you, we chat about the protest and shake our heads over brunches at you. A cursory glance over Facebook blends our shotgun responses into stacks of liberal people chasing closed-circuit social justice, under the unflattering light of self-indulgence that Facebook statuses make everything out to be. I have no interest in this. I just want to talk to you, Fairfield.
I left Fairfield as faculty and students were protesting the forfeited wage agreements that professors were promised and then promised new hires in good faith that the administration would hold up. I marched and chanted quietly, then sat in my seat while more promises were made in a room where reasonable people discussed their problems. Something good was tapped there.
Fairfield, I write to you out of a sentiment of hope. I wouldn’t write anything marring about you without a soothing remedy. I get a $1,000 a month burned out of me for my education, spiritual wholeness and friendships I forged through your programs. I believe I pay this sum for good reason. I pay because these words are funneled through Jesuit-honed discernment. I write poems and stories with care and a constant gremlin in my ear calling out my sexist and racist sentiments. I am embedded with justice and tradition and a notion that the poor must be cared for. To that end, I believe that even those who act poorly are deserving of apologists. Do not expel every student who went to that party. The party, whether it is the story of a false event or an actual gather, is an event rooted in a system of disease that comes from our inability to discern campus culture. These are growing pains, Fairfield. Your student body is changing. Every revolutionary protest of love and awareness will beget a twitch of fear, a tweet or yak of anonymous violence, a party of students drowning their ignorance through bad humor and kegs. Every dollar spent on a new building is time wasted now. Stop building upwards and start digging wells, you’ll be surprised how much moral gold our Jesuit founders left for us.
I almost didn’t write to you Fairfield. I almost let the missed call stay as a red line in my phone, another opportunity to stay seated and well-liked and liberally neutral. But, Hamilton is on broadway and I’m feeling spunky.
Thanks for reading Fairfield. I miss our talks. Next time you call, I promise I will answer.