The much-anticipated fall event hosted by the Fairfield University Student Association, The Presidential Ball, will return this weekend after not happening last year due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pres Ball, as it has been termed by students, is set to take place this Friday, September 24 on the lawn of Bellarmine Hall.
To accommodate the ongoing pandemic, the event will actually be two events. The classes of 2025 and 2024 will have an earlier event from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. while classes of 2023 and 2022 will have a later event from 10 p.m. until midnight.
The Presidential Ball was founded in 2003 and “serves as a kickoff for the fall semester where students have the opportunity to meet and interact with our University President,” according to the FUSA website. Students have been able to take pictures with the president and their spouse, dance, and snack on hors d’oeuvres on Bellarmine Lawn.
One of FUSA President Tyler Heffern ‘22 and Vice President Cailyn Fiori ‘22 campaign platforms was a safe return to in-person campus events.
Senior Jasmine Nguy shared that she is “excited about my final Pres Ball. I’m glad that even with COVID restrictions, I can still celebrate with my friends.”
FUSA emphasized the importance of safety when returning to the traditional in-person events Fairfield students experienced pre-pandemic.
“Of course this can only be done with proper consideration of our students’ health and safety which is why certain expectations for our goers have been implemented.”
To achieve this, in a statement from FUSA to The Mirror, they stated that “there were many meetings throughout the summer with Fairfield administration, regarding COVID-19 guidelines, campus and student safety and the ways in which we could host this event with the health of our campus community in mind.”
As was aforementioned, there will be two Presidential Ball events on Friday to give students in all grades an opportunity to experience the event.
The initial capacity as decided in conjunction between FUSA and the University administration was 1,000 students per event.
“A capacity of 1,000 is what everyone felt comfortable with due to the size of our tent, ability for social distancing and our transition into our first large event over the past year and a half.”
However, on Sept. 20, students who were unable to purchase tickets and were placed on a waitlist were notified that 250 more tickets will be added to each event increasing the total student-attendance per event to 1,250 students each.
Though ticket sales are completed now, there were several complications leading up to the original sale.
Originally, tickets were meant to go on sale for both events on Sept. 9 at 8:00 p.m., however, the website hosting the ticket sales, UniversityTickets, crashed at the time sales opened. FUSA suspended ticket sales as of 8:15 p.m. that night due to the site crashing. Shortly after, FUSA reached out to students via email alerting them of this suspension.
In an email sent by FUSA to students on Sept. 16, FUSA explained the site crash.
“While the explanation is complicated, essentially our ticket system data is connected to the same student data that our University uses,” the email stated.
“There was a disconnect between the data feed and the company’s IP address. This caused some student profiles to be non-existent, while causing others to receive errors regarding ticket types and profiles,” the email continued.
Additionally, FUSA credited the large numbers of students attempting to access the site at the same time as a potential cause of the site crashing.
Ticket sales went live for the second time on Sept. 16 at 8:00 p.m. for the Class of 2025 and 2024. On Sept. 18 at 11:00 a.m. tickets went live for the Class of 2023 and 2022.
Initially, tickets for the Class of 2025 and 2024’s Pres Ball event sold out. Students who were unable to get tickets were placed on a waitlist. They then were given first priority to buy tickets once the capacity of the event was expanded.
The Class of 2022 and 2023’s Pres Ball event did not sell out the night tickets went live, but later did so. Students in those years also had the opportunity to purchase tickets once the event’s capacity expanded.
“We realize that not all students that have a desire to attend will get to due to the reduced capacity,” FUSA said in a statement to The Mirror. “Students that are unable to secure a ticket are welcome to add themselves to our Presidential Ball waitlists.”
FUSA reached out to those students who were on waitlists directly about purchasing tickets.
In regards to the increase in the capacity of the event, FUSA said that they met with representatives from the Health Center, the Office of Student Engagement and the Department of Public Safety to determine the capacity limit.
At the end of these meetings, it was decided that the University would not allow more than 1,000 students to attend each event under the condition that the capacity limit would be revisited within the week of the event and based on vaccination levels and the infection rate of the campus community, a different decision might be made.
The follow-up meeting, which took place on Sept. 20, led to the addition of 250 more persons allowed per event shift. Due to the vaccination rate being over 92 percent throughout campus and the “very low infection rate” on campus, this addition was able to be made.
Since the event was unable to be held last year, the Presidential Ball this year will be the first one for over half of the students on campus.
“We are most excited to introduce this wonderful tradition to them and put on larger campus gatherings that students missed out on in the last year and a half,” FUSA said.