Classic Signals: Keg party turns deadly

By Elise Schoening
Features Editor

Every week, Features Editor Elise Schoening hits the archives and finds old Signals that relate to current College topics and top stories.

In April 1998, a party hosted at a house in Trenton, N.J., where College students and members of Theta Chi fraternity lived, ended in armed robbery and the fatal shooting of one man. While investigating the murder, police said they may charge the fraternity with throwing an illegal party. Administrators of the College debated the role of the College in intervening in the off-campus incident.

A campus fraternity could be charged with violating alcohol laws after an attempted robbery resulted in the death of a neighborhood teen at a Trenton house where Theta Chi fraternity members live, police said.

Trenton Deputy Police Chief Joe Constance said that the police will be pressing chargers against Theta Chi and the landlord of the house. “It was an illegal party. It was in violation of ABC laws. Once the murder is solved, we will concentrate on charging those we see fit,” he said.

Constance said that there were about 30 people at the house at the height of the party.

Sue Long, the college’s director of Public Information, said the College cannot charge Theta Chi with any wrongdoing. “We have no authority of off-campus incidents. It’s between police and students,” she said.

Dr. Jesse Rosenblum, acting associate vice president for College Relations, said, “I have no idea if there is a problem or not. If the students say there is a problem, I believe them but it’s their problem.”

Mary-Elaine Perry, director of Community Development Services, said that the College does not believe in fraternity houses. “Our philosophy is to try to build community. People living in fraternity houses on campus goes against that grain,” she said.

According to Perry, the College does not have a large Greek population. “We set high standards of behavior,” she said. “Some students do not want to keep those standards so they move off campus.”

Perry said that although she thinks what happened was a tragedy, she does not think that changing the college housing policy for fraternities would have prevented such an incident from happening.

Perry does not single out the Greeks on campus for violating college policy or engaging in questionable behavior. “There are other groups of people who live in similar circumstances who do similar things. I will not single out the Greeks,” she said.

The brothers of Phi Kappa Tau are also concerned with the unsafe conditions of where they are forced to live.

An employee of a halfway house and drug rehabilitation center across the stress said, “This is not a safe neighborhood for suburban kids on their own.”

The shooting took place on Friday, April 17, at approximately 3:55 a.m. at a house inhabited by Theta Chi members, located on the 700 block of West State Street in central-west Trenton.