And then there were three. Last spring there were five fraternities on the Lawrenceville campus. Then, Phi Kappa Tau was disbanded in the aftermath of Gary DeVercelly’s death and evidence of underage drinking was found in the investigation of the incident. Now, the University has rightfully rendered its decision to dissolve the Beta Mu chapter of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), Rider’s oldest Greek organization.
Although the brothers of ZBT may feel the administration had an ax to grind and unfairly decided their fate, it’s a decision that came about after a long train of abuses. The unfortunate saga began nine months ago when the fraternity violated its probationary status and was issued standards of conduct to fulfill. Yet, things only spiraled downward as a number of Code of Conduct violations were documented and damages to the house exceeded $500 this semester.
Even though it was not a deciding factor for the administration, who will forget the infamous fight or head-butting incident that occurred in late September that left a visitor injured and bleeding and a fraternity brother arrested, facing charges of assault and possession of marijuana? It once again left Rider splashed across the front pages of newspapers and used as a tool by some to show that nothing had changed since DeVercelly’s death.
Sadly enough, ZBT missed many opportunities to correct its mistakes and forge a future that resembles its 50-year history, rich with tradition and fostering generations of brotherhood. Gone are the days when ZBT was remembered for its charitable activities with the March of Dimes, the Cancer Society and the Heart Fund in 1964. Fondly, ZBT alumni from the time may recall the hand they played in leading the fraternity to first place in the intramural football competition for two straight years in the early 1960s.
ZBT is a fraternity that planted its roots off campus early on and later developed into an institution raising its profile with accolades when it received the National Trustees Award. It’s been a part of Rider since the college was located in Trenton. It had a stone house at 407 Greenwood Avenue that from the outside is distinguished for its design. Now more than ever, it is perhaps a symbol of a time when ZBT was soaring to new heights in the early 1990s and building a promising legacy now being recalled by brothers.
“ZBT was the oldest Greek house on Rider’s campus with a life spanning over 50 years,” said Lenny Calis, a brother of the ZBT fraternity. “After half a century of existence, we have created a lot of history in our house.”
In the midst of the news, one has to consider: Will the history of ZBT be forever tarnished by its recent incidents or will it rebuild its image when it becomes eligible to apply for re-colonization in 2011? To make matters even worse, the lasting mark ZBT may have left was the inappropriate graffiti found in the house by Public Safety last week.
On the heels of ZBT’s disbandment, many sorority sisters and fraternity brothers will see this decision as the University’s first step in getting rid of Greek Life on campus. While messages written by ZBT brothers and others on the Facebook group, “Heres [sic] to our Fraternity … Preserve the Legacy of Zeta Beta Tau at Rider” with 224 members as of yesterday, may provoke feelings of empathy for current and former brothers, a sense of rationality has to prevail. Even the chapter’s alumni board supports the administration’s decision to rescind recognition of the fraternity.
This was not the University’s attempt to target ZBT unfairly. It’s time for all the sororities and fraternities to assess themselves and ensure that they are living up to the par set forth by their national chapters. Being part of a sorority or fraternity is an opportunity to develop character and integrity and cultivate a sense of camaraderie that will carry the brothers and sisters through their most important years and live on long after commencement from Rider.
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros