Rider case prompts policy review at College

The alcohol-induced death of Rider University freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr. and the subsequent charging of Rider’s Dean of Students and Director of Greek Life have made a nationwide impact on college students, but it has also caused College adminstrators and Inter-Greek Council (IGC) leaders to re-examine its policies.

DeVercelly, 18, of Long Beach, Calif., died on March 30 after a party at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house where he was pledging. Authorities said his blood alcohol level was 0.426 percent.

Rider’s Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley have both pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated hazing, though Mercer County prosecutor Joseph Bocchini has asked a Superior Court Judge to drop the charges against the two.

Also charged were Michael J. Torney, the Phi Kappa Tau chapter president, Dominic Olsen, pledge master, and Adriano DiDonato, Phi Kappa Tau house manager. All three pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated hazing.

The Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house has since been closed.

David Conner, director of fraternities and sororities, said IGC is reviewing what happened at Rider and examining College risk-management policies.

“We want to make sure we are where we need to be,” he said.

According to Daniel Gaughan, president of IGC at the College, the situation at Rider has not yet been discussed within IGC but will be brought up at the first meeting.

“What happened at Rider was obviously a huge tragedy that will probably affect the Greek community at (the College) as well as around the country,” Gaughan said. “With it being the summer and having a new assistant director of fraternity and sorority programs, I have not yet discussed the ramifications with my executive board or the assistant director.”

According to Matt Golden, director of communications and media relations, the division of student affairs has been reviewing its policies and procedures relating to alcohol use, Greek life, staff selection and training as a result of DeVercelly Jr.’s death.

“We have been monitoring Rider’s tragedy and the subsequent developments very closely, as we do with significant events at many colleges,” Golden said.

Gaughan said if something similar occurred at the College, the fraternity or sorority responsible would be shut down.

The situation at Rider has caused the College to examine how it would respond if something similar happened on campus, Golden said.

“Whenever a crisis occurs, we try to determine how we would have responded, if that response would have been effective, how the crisis might have been prevented and what we can learn to improve our practices,” he said.

Golden said alcohol abuse has been an issue at the College for a few years.

“Alcohol use, abuse and education became a very prominent issue on this campus two to three years ago when we held an alcohol summit,” he said. “Since that time, (the College) has directed a great deal of energy and effort toward analyzing and adjusting its alcohol policies where appropriate and helping its students make healthy choices.”