Rider Dean Charged With Hazing In Student's Death

<p><a href="http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_215123845.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_215123845.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>A few are charged, but hundreds get away each year. </p>

<p>There are countless fraternities with deaths on their conscience --well at least one would hope they have one-- but too little is done in disseminating information about the dangers of hazing, especially when the organizers are just a few months older than freshmen.</p>

<p>How exactly were the school officials legally involved?? The connection is not obvious. Were they handing out vodka at the party or do they just oversee the frats as part of their jobs? I believe the drinker was an adult and most responsible for his actions unless forced to drink. Was the guy forced to drink or just showing off to his peers?</p>

<p>Barrons, you're hiding behind the same fig leave that makes the successful prosecution of such cases so strenuous, not to mention unpopular. </p>

<p>Note that the individuals are not prosecuted for manslaughter or homocide; they are prosecuted for causing injuries. When someone falls through a window at a school, chances are that someone will be blamed for a faulty construction or a lack of protection. You do not have to PUSH a person through a window to be help legally responsible. The same logic applies for people leaving a pool unattended and unlocked. </p>

<p>However, all that legal wrangling does not do much as deaths by hazing or alcohol poisoning continue to accumulate. Families and friends of students who died at a young age can also see how quickly one life is forgotten. The most painful part of those stories is that there is hardly ever a silver lining in the senseless deaths. </p>

<p>Unfortunately, people who look back at their own crazy times with a smile and think about their own Animal House days with teary nostalgia do not truly understand the depth and extent of this ... cancer. Holding the hand of a mother who just lost an 18 year old might make you less prone to scramble for legal loopholes. </p>

<p>Students should expect more from their school officials and from their ... so-called brothers. There is no glamour in dying by choking on your own vomit! </p>

Bocchini, the Mercer County prosecutor, wouldn't disclose the exact evidence that resulted in a grand jury indicting the five. However, he has said previously that the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour. </p>

<p>He said the grand jury found that the five "knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct" which resulted in injury to DeVercelly, as well as William Williams, a freshman who was also hospitalized but survived. </p>

<p>In the case of the officials, the grand jury looked at the way they handled oversight of the Greek organizations on campus, Bocchini said.


<p>barrons, I think what xiggi is saying is that these are sanctioned HAZING activities which is not the same as some kid choosing to drink too much at a party or in his room. Hazing is a different thing as the pledges may be strongly coerced into doing these behaviors in order to join the frat. If someone just drinks too much, then they have themselves to blame. Hazing is the issue here when others are overseeing this behavior, encouraging, facilitating and making the person do it in order to get something else. This type of hazinig behavior is hazardous and the hazards are constructed by the organizers. It is an abusive practice. It is nothing like someone just drinking of their own volition. Some states have laws against hazing, whereas it is not a law to not drink (unless underage). The organizers are in a position of power over the pledges and get them to engage in life threatening behaviors in order to be admitted. There is coercion involved. It is not just drinking itself. The issue really is the hazing. The hazing can endanger the life of the person trying to join the group. Often the national organization for a frat or the college itself prohibits hazing (in some cases the state has a law) and so enforcing that rule is part of the situation too.</p>

<p>I know of no college are national fraternity that has such sanctioned hazing events. In fact hazing is against the law in NJ after the death of a Monmouth student. I cannot see any sane dean knowingly allowing such activity. Of course we have seen some prosecutors who tried to put themselves in the news with dire results. To me this looks like trying to hold Va Tech guilty for the actions of Cho. Yes there were some signs he had problems but does that make one a criminal??</p>

<p>We'll see. My brother spent some time at Rider so I am pretty familiar with the campus and that the frats are in on campus houses so they probably get more supervision than off campus houses.
So Xiggi, under what set of circumstances would you see the Dean as criminally liable for this death? It was an unsanctioned party so he had no official notice that there was to be a party he might need to review. And in the case of faulty construction, unless it was so grossly negligent that anyone would have acted to correct it, it would never result in criminal charges. Criminal charges come about when the contractor puts in some inferior quality windows or cement that later fails causing harm. Do you think the engineers that inspected the bridge in Minn will be prosecuted as criminals???? Not a chance unless they did something knowingly to hide the defects.</p>

<p>I should not have used the word "sanctioned." I meant these were organized hazing events which are against the law in many states and likely against the national frat organization's rules and the college's rules. My point was to contrast it with your assertion that the student was solely responsible for his behavior which in my view, would be wholly different if he merely drank himself to death at some party or in his room. The hazing is the issue.</p>

<p>Barrons, I don't really see much of a parallel with the monstruosity of the events at Va Tech and the dangerous activities that WILL take place on many of US campus next Fall. </p>

<p>For the record, I do not really advocate for heightened policing of our universities, nor advocate for lengthy prison terms. I am advocating for all parties involved to spend more resources on educating the families of underclassmen (for a start) about the danger of binge drinking, hazing, and other questionable practices. Most of our resources are spent ARGUING about fine print, and silly issues such as the number of drinks per [fill the blanks] that REALLY constitute binge drinking, if not attempting to bury the news. Just ask yourself if YOU know anyone who has died in similar circumstances, and then someone who knows someone who died or ... was very lucky. The result might be frightening.</p>

<p>Without the contributions of many working TOGETHER, this problem will remain.</p>

<p>Actually I went to one of the biggest hard-drinking schools in the US by both common knowledge, party rankings, and official binging rates. Since I have been around that school of 40,000 in Madison, WI there has been one drinking related death--a fall off a balcony at an off campus private party which may or may not have been due to the alcohol he consumed. Frats there have little to do with the overall drinking and are only a small segment of the campus overall. </p>

<p>Now maybe kids there have more training in drinking or whatever but I knew nobody and don't know anybody who knew anybody who died drinking at UW. Suicides, drowning, car accidents (no drinks) all happened more than once--usually every year.
From the Milwaukee Journal</p>

<p>"(The University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been considered one of the hardest-drinking campuses in the country, but in recent years, there has been only one student death clearly linked to alcohol. That was in April 2001 when a freshman, later determined to have a high blood-alcohol content, fell from a second-story balcony during a beer party."</p>

<p>It seems like this might have a detrimental effect on the willingness of people to take the job of "Dean of Fraternity Affairs" at just about any college.</p>

<p>I saw the writing on the wall long ago. Back when I worked in higher ed, I followed the legal cases of the day that held or tried to hold colleges responsible for just about everything that happened to students. I was a sorority advisor, and our national was very proactive ... our members had to stop cosponsoring parties, and they had to hire a bus to drive them to/from any allowed parties (like formal dances) ... even to go a mile away. After I left work, I became the chapter advisor (instead of school advisor). I began to feel pretty uncomfortable being the chapter advisor. I was worried that I might be held legally responsible for things that happened even if I did everything I could to make sure the girls knew what was/was not acceptable. They were a great group of girls, but I couldn't be with them every step of the way. I was sad to do it, but I finally decided to protect my family be stepping down as advisor. I feel bad that I had to make that decision. I guess college administrators may end up having to decide if they can actually work in a school with a Greek system. Of course, there will always be something else to hold them responsible for ...</p>

For that reason alone I would hope that that this case does not go to that place. Your story makes me very sad.</p>

<p>The frat/sorority system has been in place for a long time; for some kids (such as mine) it fills a wonderful need for friendship, leadership, community service...all in one. I'd hate to see a dearth of sponsors and advisors. That would be a death knell to greek and panhellenic organizations.</p>

<p>I'm not familiar with frats and sororities, but it seems to me the issue here is the hazing-related drinking. While hazing has been prohibited, it seems to have gone on at Rider. Wouldn't organizing one take some effort and publicity? How much oversight did the dean and officer in charge of Greek life exercise in this case?</p>

<p>I worked in my kids' elementary lunchroom for a few years. One of the other moms decided to work there because her son told her about various "inappropriate" things that were said/done at lunch & she believed that the adults all knew & allowed it to go on. She quickly found out that kids can be very, very sneaky. I think that young adults --- who have several more years worth of "sneaky" practice --- can be very good at hiding what is going on. I do not condone what happened. It's unacceptable. If the dean knew about it & allowed it to happen, he should be held accountable, of course. I was once associated with a college that allowed a particular men's group to haze in public ... fortunately, nothing "terrible" ever happened to any of the members. If anything like this had happened, then the dean & president SHOULD have been held accountable. So, yes. They may have known & that does make a difference. I just cringe at automatic assumptions of responsibility.</p>

<p>I think that Xiggi and Kelsmom have very graphically presented the dilemma. It's a huge problem, as Xiggi knows only too well. Yet who is to be responsible for addressing that problem, which is diverse and dispersed throughout our society, and who is to be responsible for the tragedies which follow from (let's be honest) typically irresponsible young adult behavior, is hard to decide.</p>

<p>I agree, Kluge, it is hard to decide if deans or others on campus were responsible and what they knew or what they tried to impress upon these organizations. But those folks aside, I do think that the frat members who engaged in the actual hazing, should be accountable. Coercing others to engage in dangerous acts reminds me of drug pushing to some degree. This is even worse because there is an element of control over the pledges. So, I'm not commenting so much on the drinking and who can stop the drinking. I'm just referring to the hazing aspect, which in this case involved an overdose of alcohol, but any dangerous hazing should be strictly forbidden. I see this differently than a frat having a drinking party. Each person at the party is responsible for their own behavior. While some frown upon even that activity, that doesn't bother me so much as it is part of college culture and an individual needs to be responsible. But hazing and forcing others to engage in dangerous acts is wrong and goes way beyond offering someone a drink that they can have or turn down. There is a forceful coercion and more than simply a drink involved. Some hazing requires consumption of a large amount in a short time and other hazardous and life threatening acts with pressure to conform in order to be admitted to the organization. That's not the same as individual choice when it comes to having a drink or two or three.</p>

<p>wow, that's unbelievable...</p>

<p>"I guess college administrators may end up having to decide if they can actually work in a school with a Greek system. Of course, there will always be something else to hold them responsible for ...'</p>

<p>Actually, that has already happened in the health care profession. At my alma mater, the drinking scene had become so dangerous that no medical group was willing to accept the legal liability of providing overnight care at the college infirmary because of all the cases of dangerous drinking that were brought in. Now dangerous drinkers must be picked up by ambulance and travel 7 miles over snowy roads to the emergency department in the next town.</p>

<p>They have had several "near-deaths", including two pre-frosh visiting the school. The outgoing dean says things will look very different WHEN (not if, but when) the first death occurs, and that it is only a matter of time. Meanwhile, my alumni contribution (measly as it is) goes to pay for the increased insurance bill due to the payoff of lawsuits from parents. No case ever goes to trial - they hush it up as best they can, usually through the judicious use of many zeros on the checks.</p>

<p>P.S. There are no "legal" Greeks at my alma mater.</p>

<p>Why isn't the legal system going after the kids that did the hazing? Seems like they are more at fault than the dean. Is it deep pockets? I'd think they'd have to prove some form of coercion, or at least heavy encouragement, before they can even think about inculpating the school administration.</p>

<p>"Why isn't the legal system going after the kids that did the hazing? Seems like they are more at fault than the dean."</p>

<p>They are. The question is whether the dean can be held accountable for his contribution to the crime. The grand jury apparently thought he could be. I doubt that ANYONE made an automatic assumption of responsibility - that just doesn't happen in criminal cases. If a crime is committed, and individuals are involved in the crime, the prosecutor is required to make the case these particular individuals are personally, and criminally, responsible. It is not simply a matter of administrative oversight. There had to be, at the very least, charges of criminal negligence. </p>

<p>"The defendants knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated, or engaged in conduct which resulted in the death of Gary DeVercelly," Bochhini said."</p>

<p>We'll see how it plays out.</p>

<p>This is separate from the issue of the "deep pockets". The College will pay through the nose, as they always do, but we'll never hear the terms of the actual settlement.</p>