Nearly 100 Fairfield residents gathered with town officials and Fairfield University representatives yesterday to voice their concerns about the behavior of Fairfield students at last semester’s SantaCon and offer solutions to manage the student-led event going forward. 

The discussion focused on addressing issues of litter washed into the Long Island Sound, exhaustion of town safety resources, underage drinking, trespassing, disrespect toward residents from students and the overall safety of the community. Although most of the conversation pertained to Fairfield beach students, there were none seated in the crowd to listen or offer input from a student standpoint. 

One recurring concern mentioned by town officials and residents was the amount of trash piled up after this year’s SantaCon. Multiple residents shared stories of filling several garbage bags the next morning and treading into the Long Island sound to collect trash that washed out with the tide.

The Rearview sent out a survey asking Fairfield students whether or not they noticed the amount of litter at SantaCon, as well as the solutions that could be implemented to help lessen the amount of trash left on the beach. 

It’s on the students. However, I don’t think anything will spark change without consequences or coordination from the University.

Mia Swenson ‘26

Every student who filled out the survey agreed that littering at SantaCon is a problem. Many responded that it is the result of a lack of trash cans present in the beach area. 

“The University and student body should partner to have multiple trash cans or a dumpster delivered to the beach so students can more easily facilitate the removal of trash,” said Fairfield senior, Garret Nelson.

Student responses differed about whether the onus is on the University or the students to coordinate a better strategy to address trash pick-up after SantaCon. Some responded that, because SantaCon is a student-led event, it is the students’ responsibility; others said that the University must step in to help. 

“It’s on the students. However, I don’t think anything will spark change without consequences or coordination from the University,” said Mia Swenson ‘26.

“The students already do a good job of ensuring that the beach is cleaned up. Therefore, I think it is more on the University to have a larger role in ensuring that our beach stays clean,” said Madeline Suarez ‘24.

The Rearview asked Anderson and Fairfield University Student Association whether a student representative from FUSA was invited by the University to attend and speak on behalf of the student body. 

Anderson replied that the public forum was marketed through the Town of Fairfield First Selectman’s office. “As a University we made the decision that the vice president responsible for community relations would be the best person to represent Fairfield on the panel,” she said. 

The 76th FUSA President, Aliyah Seenauth ’24, confirmed that there had been a discussion between FUSA and Anderson, as well as with the University’s Vice President for Student Life, Karen Donoghue. She also confirmed that it was decided that Anderson would be “the best person to represent Fairfield for this community conversation.”

Although FUSA did not attend the public forum, Seenauth said that she is a member of the Fairfield Beach Task Force and will be attending upcoming meetings to address “these matters.”

Are you going to wait for a Fairfield University student to end up in the morgue before we take more measures? Shut it down or move it to the school.

Fairfield Resident, Ben Rosenbloom

The public forum included a panel of the town’s First Selectman Bill Gerber, Chief of Police Robert Kalamaras, Deputy Chief of Police Eddie Weihe, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Dennis McCarthy, Health Director Sands Cleary, Fairfield University Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Anderson and President of Lantern Point Association Chris Tymniak. 

The event’s moderator, Margaret Horton, began by emphasizing the goal to “create better solutions” and develop a plan for managing SantaCon going forward. As the night continued, however, many residents also took it as an opportunity to question students’ respect for the town and its residents, as well as the University’s efforts to contain SantaCon. 

“Are you going to wait for a Fairfield University student to end up in the morgue before we take more measures?,” asked Fairfield resident Ben Rosenbloom. “Shut it down or move it to the school.”

Kalamaras and McCarthy both said in their opening remarks that there has been an improvement over the years in reducing the number of incidents that occur in the beach area. Weihe added that, as a result of previous SantaCons, the police have created a Fairfield Beach Road Task Force and host Fairfield Beach stakeholders meetings to discuss ways of managing SantaCon. 

“That said, nobody in the stakeholders group accepts the current state of conditions as acceptable,” McCarthy said. “Your input tonight will help guide us in future discussions…so we can improve the lives of everyone in the beach area.”

During her opening remarks, Anderson shared details about the University’s efforts to deter student attendance at SantaCon and explained its limited control over what occurs at the beach.

The University spent $150,000 this year on funding and marketing of on-campus events that took place the same day as SantaCon in an effort to draw students away from the beach area, according to Anderson. 

Further, she shared that $10,000 was spent on hiring safety personnel to help patrol the beach area. Both Fairfield and Sacred Heart University increased outreach to discourage students from attending SantaCon.

“Nearly 70 percent of documented incidents, including infractions and transports during Santacon, were not Fairfield University students,” said Anderson. 

If I hired a garbage truck, drove it up to Fairfield University, dumped the garbage in the parking lot and then I peed on their lawn, wouldn’t I get arrested?

A Fairfield Beach Resident

Tensions rose among residents as Anderson explained that SantaCon isn’t a University-sanctioned event and the students living on the beach are private residents. Accordingly, the University doesn’t have control over what occurs at Lantern Point where SantaCon takes place.

Residents later turned to Anderson in frustration and anger, demanding that the University take responsibility for SantaCon’s impact and the danger that it presents to both students and local residents.

“You need to own it, put a plan in place and be collaborative. Not just say, ‘it isn’t a sanctioned university event’,” said one resident. 

Another resident and mother of three children who attend Catholic schools questioned the University’s commitment to its Jesuit mission. 

“How is any of your leadership on this reflecting your Jesuit mission? Because I don’t think it is,” she said. “You should be leading this effort, not following. You have a moral obligation to do better.” 

After each panelist gave their initial remarks, attendees were each granted three minutes to voice their opinions. Over 20 people lined up at the microphone, ranging from long-term residents to parents with young children.

Some residents insisted the best solution would be to ticket and arrest students, cracking down on underage drinking, littering, open containers and trespassing. 

“If I hired a garbage truck, drove it up to Fairfield University, dumped the garbage in the parking lot and then I peed on their lawn, wouldn’t I get arrested?,” said one beach resident.

Others said the answer would be to enroll students in an environmental class where they can learn about the impact of litter washed into the Sound on marine life. 

The University was “equally concerned about the unprecedented trash left behind,” said Anderson. She further shared that the University has already started conversations with its environmental faculty and is working on developing environmental safety training for students beginning their freshman year.

The University will continue to collaborate with the Town, Police, Fire and Health Department to collectively address residential concerns and will consider all viable suggestions. We always want the outcome of all of our collective efforts to result in safer, more manageable series of events.

Fairfield University Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Jennifer Anderson

Other proposed solutions included evicting student tenants at Lantern Point who help to host SantaCon, prohibiting student violators from graduating, moving SantaCon to the Jennings Beach parking lot and passing an injunction similar to that which now governs Clam Jam.

“One day, we are going to wake up the next day and find out there is a person floating in the Long Island Sound—not just trash,” said a concerned resident.  

Another resident suggested that the best solution would be for the Lantern Point Association to increase the age minimum of tenants to 25-years-old, thus restricting any students from living at Lantern Point. He was met with minimal cheering and several boos from the crowd.

Several residents questioned Fairfield students’ commitment to the environment by drawing a comparison to their own children and grandchildren, remarking that “even toddlers understand that littering is wrong.”

In addition to environmental concerns, Lantern Point residents also pointed out issues of personal conduct among attendees of the event. One resident of Fairfield Beach Road spoke up about her experience being yelled at by drunk students after they trespassed onto her property during SantaCon. 

“There is a culture at Fairfield University where they think they are entitled to do these things,” she said.

Gerber closed the meeting by reiterating the town’s commitment, with these suggestions in mind, to working with the University to prevent future “human and environmental tragedy” as a result of gatherings like SantaCon.

“The University will continue to collaborate with the Town, Police, Fire and Health Department to collectively address residential concerns and will consider all viable suggestions,” said Anderson. “We always want the outcome of all of our collective efforts to result in safer, more manageable series of events.”

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