Fairfield University President issues memorandum on community standards

Editor's Note: This memorandum was written by the Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., University President, on Oct. 14, 1998, and was distributed to the University community.

I write today on a matter of deep concern and some urgency. In recent months, all of us have heard and read about alcohol-related tragedies and unsettling behavior on our college campuses. From the deaths of students at MIT and Louisiana State University to riot conditions at the Universities of Connecticut and Vermont, Miami University of Ohio and Stonehill College, we have been awakened to the harsh realities of the very real impact the abuse of alcohol can have on the lives of our young people.

I am sure, then, that many of you must share with me a concern over the recent reports of the deteriorating relationship between our students and the permanent residents of the Fairfield Beach area. Our neighbors have alleged rowdyism and outrageous behavior on the part of Fairfield students, and complaints suggest that much of the activity is alcohol related. Neighbors contend that our students act without reference to the impact that they have on others or themselves.

You, too, must find these images difficult to reconcile with those of the young adults we honor each year for their outstanding achievements and their commitments to serving others through volunteer programs.

Nonetheless, a review of the Fairfield Beach activities of the past few weeks leads to the conclusion that the behavior of some Fairfield students, and some alumni as well, has been inappropriate and must be addressed. The issues are complex, and, as we seek solutions to the problems, we must involve all parties associated with the beach community: students, University staff, landlords, town officials and the permanent residents. If true and meaningful solutions are to be achieved, we must create a constructive conversation in which all need to participate.

For my part, I would like to direct my challenge to members of the University community - students, faculty, staff and alumni - as well as to the members of our extended community, the parents of our students.

As we view and evaluate our activities as a University, we are guided by our mission statement, a codification of the principles and goals which serve as a standard against which to measure our success. The mission statement speaks directly to our obligations to the greater community:

"Fairfield has a further obligation to the wider community of which it is a part, to share with its neighbors its resources and its special expertise for the betterment of the community as a whole .... Fairfield serves the wider community by educating its students to be socially aware and morally responsible persons .... Fairfield University values each of its students as an individual with unique abilities and potentials, and it respects the personal and academic freedom of all of its members .... At the same time it seeks to develop a greater sense of community within itself, a sense that all of its members belong to and are involved in the University, sharing common goals and a common commitment to truth and justice, and manifesting in their lives the common concern for others which is the obligation of all educated, mature human beings."

If we are to achieve the aspirations identified in the mission statement, we have work to do. Finding solutions that work for all will take the commitment of a great many people. As we have in the past, members of the Fairfield University community are committed to resolving issues between residents and students and creating an environment that is rewarding for both parties.

In an effort to develop a plan for more effectively meeting the challenges of our mission, I am asking a group of eight community members - representing the faculty, students, staff and alumni - to serve on a task force that will review how we presently meet our obligations to the wider community and to recommend modifications to that approach. In addition, I am instructing each of the University vice presidents to review their operations with a similar goal in mind.

In the meantime, I encourage our faculty and staff to be rigorous in challenging our students academically and to underscore for them the seriousness of their responsibilities. I remind our alumni that you are the role models for today's students and that your actions reflect on the value of a Fairfield University degree. I ask our parents to become more involved in conversations with your children about the rights and responsibilities they have not just as students of this University but as citizens of the larger community.

While we await the recommendations of the task force, I appeal to our students to understand your responsibilities and the impact your behavior and lifestyle can have on your neighbors. I ask you to moderate your social activities and to be respectful of those living near you. I encourage our students living on campus to listen to your fellow students who are asking you not to make the beach the focus of your social activities. I remind all students that we will work with the local police to enforce underage drinking laws. Town authorities are committed to challenge all violations of local and state laws; if students continue the present pattern of inappropriate behavior, they threaten their own well being and the possibility of having the beach area as an option for student housing in the future.

The issues before us are eminently solvable, and I look forward to working with all of you toward a satisfactory resolution.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 1, 1998

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