Editorial: Students must be ‘Force’ for change

Sometimes life gives us no option but to put our best foot forward. In the emotional aftermath of Gary DeVercelly’s death, that is exactly what Rider has done. No one said it would be easy, but for the sake of his family, friends, peers, professors and the campus community, we have forged ahead. While we commemorate DeVercelly and his character with a named scholarship and a march around campus, we must make certain that history does not repeat itself. It is easy to pay lip service to this promise. But as the hours turn into days, months and eventually into years, we must not allow the passing of time to let us forget the lessons stemming from this tragedy.

While the University made a good first effort to overhaul its existing alcohol policies by forming a presidential Task Force consisting of students, faculty and administrators, it took a decisive misstep. Even a letter to the editor in The Rider News on the next page stresses that the student representation on the Force is inadequate. Although each student is serving on behalf of a different organization such as Residence Life, the Lawrenceville SGA and the Interfraternity Council, all but one – the Princeton campus rep – is affiliated with the Greek community. The Task Force should undeniably comprise members who will advocate the interests of our diverse student body.

As a matter of fact, that is the only way the recommendations put forth by this group will be greeted with a semblance of credibility. The duty that rests on the shoulders of all students, faculty and administrators is to voice our approval or disapproval of suggestions the Task Force is weighing. All it takes is a strike of the keyboard to form a sentence or two with an opinion and send it to taskforce@rider.edu.

Currently, the investigation into DeVercelly’s death is still ongoing, and pending its outcome, the University may have to consider further changes. What is clear is that present alcohol policies for residence halls, fraternities and sororities are inconsistent. Despite having well-established reasons for some of the regulations, deeper evaluation is needed to determine whether a more equitable policy can be implemented. Like it or not, fraternities are allowed to have registered parties where alcohol is served to individuals of age even in the presence of underage students. The national chapters of these fraternities take out expensive insurance that affords these organizations the ability to hold these social events. On the other hand, sororities do not have the same luxury and are officially dry. Because of expensive insurance, students in residence halls must abide by University policy which forbids alcohol in the presence of underage individuals.

Regardless of the reasons for the inequality governing alcohol consumption on campus, the consequences are becoming quite clear. Having different policies for fraternities compared to sororities and students living elsewhere on campus could foster confusion, if not a hazardous environment. In fact, it may even encourage students to find underground ways of consuming alcohol. The Task Force must resolve certain discrepancies in the policies that pertain to not only the Greek community but to residence halls as well.

Not withstanding the seriousness in the deliberations, we must all pause to honor Gary DeVercelly. Put your walking shoes on and be a part of the “Cali March” on Monday. And remember with every step we take, we vow to uphold the “Cali Pledge” now and forevermore.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros.

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