By Kyle Battaglia
Another day, another news story about Rider University and its rowdy student body. This time the fireworks took place at an off-campus party hosted by former members of the now-defunct fraternity Zeta Beta Tau. But do the details even matter? This time the police responded to an off-campus event, the time before it was on campus, the time before that the same. Does it matter that a student was rushed to the hospital with a broken jaw, broken teeth and bleeding in the brain? When is enough, well, enough? As a current Rider student, I wonder about this daily.
Does the school care that there were around 150 students there, many of them drinking underage? Does the school care that over the last year and a half, two students have died from drug- and alcohol-related incidents? I would hope yes, but in reality I have to say no. Sure, the school made “changes.” They hired people to handle alcohol- and drug-related incidents. A “good Samaritan” policy was instituted to protect students when they seek medical attention for a friend who has had one too many. There is now more “university presence” in the Greek houses. They may advertise their anti-alcohol policies a little more, but nothing has really changed. I’m sorry if I sound caustic, bitter or jaded, but the actions of these students and the subsequent responses from the university are a reflection of what my Rider degree will mean come this May, and what a degree from this so-called institution of higher learning will mean for all students past and present.
Let me give you a perfect example. What do I hear when I walk into class on an average day? I hear fellow students talking about how “wasted” they got the night before or how “wicked” a party was. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the goal of higher education is not to master funneling beer or do the most shots, it is to give you a well-rounded education, concentrated in a core area. Students should be rewarded for working hard on and off campus. It should mean something to the university when students land prestigious internships or careers with Fortune 500 companies. The university should strive to foster an educational arena that isn’t competing with Greek Life bacchanals. After all, Rider is an institution of higher learning.
The campus mentality should not be “D for Degree.” Academics should be Rider’s core focus. I have worked hard for the past three and a half years to maintain a pretty respectable GPA. I have worked hard to become politically active and build a well-rounded rolodex. Not only that, but I have had a job during my entire Rider career to pay for my education. And what reward do I and my like-minded colleagues who strive to make themselves and Rider better get? We get news stories about drunken fights at house parties, blurbs in The Rider News about intoxicated guests becoming personas non grata, stories about drunken students driving across campus walkways and repeated property damage that affects all students.
I strongly urge the administration at Rider to rethink current policy and to reprioritize and refocus the core mission of the university to make it more responsive to academic needs. Serious thought needs to be given to eliminating Greek Life altogether. It may sound harsh, but there is a strong connection between the negative events that have transpired over the past year and a half and their activities on and off campus. Serious thought should be given to zero tolerance policies for violating existing alcohol and drug policies on campus.
With that said, the administration is not alone in this situation. We, as students, need to take pride in our school, and the goodness and values that it embodies. When we put on our “I Bleed Cranberry” shirts in the morning or our Jason Thompson jerseys before basketball games, we need to take a step back and think about what it really means to be a student at Rider University. What are we here to accomplish? Are we here to party for four years or are we here to get a degree and make a lasting impact in whatever direction we head? We need to ask ourselves some hard questions in moments of turmoil and weakness. What would my parents think? What would my former teachers think? What would my friends think? Have my choices made them proud? If you can answer yes, then most of this does not apply to you; but if you answer no, then we as the Rider University community, administration included, need to roll up our sleeves and finally put to rest all of these challenges we face.
Rider needs to do a lot to restore its academic integrity and I know that, as a community, we can meet this challenge; however, I do not want my degree from Rider to amount to a beer-soaked flier announcing yet another keg party. I am sure the administration does not want such a reputation for the school. It is time school officials and student leaders dealt with this problem openly and firmly, so that the university is known for the books and not the beer its student body consumes.