by Jeff Frankel
Fifty years after its establishment, the campus chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity has been shut down, University administrators said last week.
After repeatedly facing charges of violating the University’s Code of Conduct and falling short of standards set by the administration during a probation period, ZBT brothers learned on Nov. 19 in a letter from Dean of Students Anthony Campbell that recognition of the Beta Mu chapter was rescinded.
“The closing of any chapter is not taken lightly,” Campbell said. “Closing the chapter hurts current students and alumni of the 50-year legacy.”
The chapter was founded in 1957 when Rider was still located in downtown Trenton. ZBT’s local alumni board supports the school’s decision to revoke recognition of the group, Campbell said.
The fraternity will be eligible to reapply for its charter in the fall 2011 semester, Campbell said. ZBT has not lost its national charter, just its good standing with the University, so members still belong to the national group, he said.
Members living in the house may stay through the end of the fall semester. In the spring, all who are in good standing with the University will be allowed to relocate to other residence halls.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity, which occupies the first floor of the building, will move up to the second floor and fill 28 beds. After that, plans to fill the rest of the building are still up in the air, said Campbell.
“None of the three fraternities left (TKE, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Phi Epsilon) can fill it,” said Ada Badgley, director of Greek Life. “We ran some room numbers and thought [that] we can fill both houses 4 [University House] and 5 [ZBT] with these organizations.”
Shortly after word of ZBT’s disbandment, the second floor of House 5, where most ZBT members reside, was vandalized with derogatory words and symbols sometime between Nov. 20 and 21, according to Public Safety documents. The graffiti is under investigation, and most days since it appeared a Public Safety officer has been parked outside the building or on duty in the basement.
“Those types of graffiti and damage are not appropriate,” Campbell said. “We have to protect our property.”
A Facebook group carries the headline “Heres [sic] to our Fraternity … Preserve the Legacy of Zeta Beta Tau at Rider.” The group boasts over 200 members and nearly 500 images of party nights at the fraternity.
“As many of you may have heard by now, Zeta Beta Tau has fallen victim to Rider’s latest step in its mission to destroy Greek Life on campus,” the Facebook page reads. “Upon hearing the decision of Anthony Campbell, many brothers as well as other members of the Rider community were both hurt and appalled. We are now being forced to let go of this history, but we do not have to let go of our pride.”
Campbell said in an interview there was no one incident that led to the dismissal.
“We took the total picture of the fraternity and I made a decision,” he said. “There was not any one violation.”
His Nov. 19 letter rescinding the status of the fraternity did list factors that played a part.
“Specifically, the chapter’s self-monitoring system is not yet operational,” the letter states. “This standard was supposed to have been completed prior to the start of the fall semester. Brothers and guests of the chapter have accumulated a substantial number of Code of Conduct violations and the chapter has already exceeded the $500 annual [limit] for housing damages this semester alone.
“In addition, the chapter failed to ensure the completion of 5 hours of hands-on community service by each member,” it continued. “This repeated course of inappropriate conduct leaves the University with no alternative but to rescind recognition of the Beta Mu chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.”
ZBT has been “constantly” on probation since the spring of 2005, said Badgley, and it was off-and-on many times before that.
The fraternity was first notified in February that it was not complying with the University’s conduct. A mid-June show-cause hearing was convened to determine whether the University should rescind the chapter’s status because of a lack of progress toward conduct benchmarks in the February letter.
On Oct. 1 of this semester, the University placed ZBT on administrative suspension and required the chapter to stop all operations while the University reviewed the chapter’s progress in achieving the standards outlined in the July letter.
In a late-October meeting with the ZBT chapter president, senior Matt Weinshenker, Campbell discussed the preliminary findings of the investigation and gave ZBT two weeks to respond to the University’s allegations.
Weinshenker declined to comment for this article.
Such incidents as the Sept. 29 fight between ZBT brother John Goodleaf and a visitor in what police called a pot deal gone bad were not a reason for the group’s dismissal, Campbell said.
Both Goodleaf and the visitor were charged by the Lawrence Township Police Department with aggravated assault and possession of a controlled, dangerous substance under 50 grams. Goodleaf was also charged with possession with intent to distribute.
ZBT is the second fraternity to be disbanded from the University in less than six months. The Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity was kicked off campus this summer after three of its fraternity brothers and two University administrators, Campbell and Badgley, were charged with aggravated hazing related to the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly.
DeVercelly died on March 30 after a night of heavy drinking in the PKT house. The charges against Campbell and Badgley have since been dropped.
Before that the last fraternity to be kicked off for violating school standards and breaking University conduct was Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) in 1993. During January Phi Psi held a “[N-word] night” and told the potential pledges to dress and speak in a way that was demeaning to African Americans. Phi Psi was suspended by its national organization indefinitely.