Rider is such a small school that many students attend formals and other social activities off campus. Introductions often include names, majors and what school they’re attending. Many students, after saying they attend this university, say they get a question that makes them squirm: “Isn’t Rider where that kid died?”
The untimely death of Gary DeVercelly Jr. had an impact on almost every student who attends Rider, whether it’s just being known as attending “that school where that kid died” or it is through having lost a good friend and colleague. Even though the looming civil suit between Rider and the DeVercelly family is heating up, most students are more concerned with upcoming finals and soaking up as much sun as possible.
For Michael Torney, however, a former student here as well as the former president of Rider’s chapter of Phi Kappa Tau (PKT), soaking up sun is on the bottom of his list of things to do. Torney, along with two other members of PKT, were charged with aggravated hazing. Torney’s PKT brothers Dominic Olsen and Adriano DiDonato were both granted Pre-Trial Intervention, therefore avoiding a trial and a possible prison term. Torney was not eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention because he had a previous drug charge, so his case continues.
However, Torney was recently able to strike a deal with the DeVercelly family members by agreeing to pay them $150,000 and tell them exactly what went on the night of March 29, 2007, at the Big/Little event at the PKT house on campus. This new evidence will have an impact on the civil suit filed by the DeVercelly family against Rider.
Like most fraternities, the PKT brothers have a sense of secrecy about their lives and their rituals. By telling the family the rituals that allegedly preceded the death of DeVercelly, Torney is opening to the public the secret ways of his fraternity.
Torney was able to find a way to alleviate the situation that will have an impact on the rest of his life. Although he is no longer a student here, and PKT is no longer a fraternity on campus, there are many who feel that Torney is betraying Rider and his PKT brothers by telling the DeVercelly family his version of that night.
However, Torney is no longer invested in Rider, and although it seems harsh to say this, his allegiance no longer lies with Rider and the PKT brotherhood. By revealing information, he may also help the DeVercellys find some closure.
Keep in mind, the settlement he will pay is no small chunk of change for Torney — in dollars or emotion. By agreeing to pay this huge sum of money, it seems obvious that he has exhausted every other possibility to keep himself out of trouble.
To some it may seem like Torney is being selfish by making this deal with the family. His payoff seems like he’s trying to make himself look better, with little or no thought to how Rider will pick up the messy pieces. Although a majority of people would rather pay a fine than go to jail and face serious charges, Torney’s actions will most likely have a negative effect on the University. Many students have the mentality of “me first,” and it’s important to see how far one person’s actions can reach.
Torney’s lawyers claim that Torney was not even at the PKT house the night of the party, so his evidence may not prove to help his case or Rider’s. Either way, as a community, Rider may be able to overcome this suit as well as the charge more easily than one person would be able to. Given Torney’s decision, let’s hope this is the case.
Written By Opinion Editor, Nadine Tester