Saturday a Rider student was injured at an off-campus party and Tuesday Rider received more negative press coverage. Despite the new policies Rider has put in place in the past two years to correct the underage drinking problem both on and off its campuses, the press has consistently covered this school negatively, and linked every incident back to the tragedy of Gary DeVercelly Jr.’s death in 2007.
Of course, a lot of what has happened since his death does correlate, but with the party last Saturday there is no clear connection. The party was held off campus at a house in Lawrenceville. The house is rented by several former members of the now disbanded Rider Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) chapter. ZBT was pushed off the Lawrenceville campus after property damage to their house and a fight in September 2007 that left a visitor with a head injury. The attacker from Saturday night is still unknown, yet it seems like local media is drawing conclusions anyway.
In a story in The Times of Trenton that ran on Oct. 21, writers Kevin Shea and Alex Zdan insinuate that the attacker was a ZBT member — or at the very least, the student was attacked because there were former ZBT members there — and Rider students got what was coming to them. The story also mentions DeVercelly’s untimely death within the first seven paragraphs, drawing the reader to conclude that the two are specifically related. In fact, out of the 150 people at this house party, only two were cited for underage drinking — a very different story than Gary’s. At the end of the Times story, there are several quotes from stunned neighbors, who have never had problems with the renters of the home before — ex-fraternity members or not.
It seems that no matter what policies Rider creates, nothing can stop college students from drinking alcohol and having parties. If there are parties on campus, the school gets sued — but if the parties are moved off campus, the school receives a bad reputation. Although Rider can readily control what happens on campus, it can only do so much to control what students do off of it. A few weeks ago, Rider sent out a new off-campus policy stating that students, even though they live off campus, would be under campus jurisdiction, as well as the Lawrence Township Police Department’s.
However, the majority of the people at this house party were apparently over the age of 21, so Rider’s rules and regulations would have very little impact on them. Also, there were no previous complaints from neighbors, besides some litter in the street. The area that the house is in is a nice area, too — the houses are priced at half a million dollars and up — so it’s not like the noise and scuffles of previous parties were ignored because these students are living in a bad neighborhood. Neighbors in a quiet community would certainly notice if the renters were a problem, and they had few previous complaints.
It seems as though Rider gets more play in local media because of DeVercelly’s death. Just last week, The College of New Jersey was in the news because of loud parties in Ewing from fraternity-owned houses, yet that incident was given less coverage in the local newspapers.
There has been a lot of misrepresentation of Rider and its students in the past few years. Just because the renters of the house were ex-ZBT members doesn’t mean that they were the ones who attacked this student. Local media shouldn’t be exploiting these renters because they were from a fraternity. Before jumping the gun, pointing fingers and drawing conclusions, local media should start writing balanced articles that truly portray Rider.
Written By Opinion Editor, Nadine Tester