‘Possible hazing incident’
By Mike Caputo
A student remained in critical condition last night after what was deemed by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office to be a “possible hazing incident” involving alcohol at the Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity house.
Gary DeVercelly, an 18-year-old freshman from Long Beach, Calif., was found unconscious after suffering cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated through CPR by EMTs, according to officials. DeVercelly was rushed to Capital Health System, Fuld Campus, in Trenton, where he was in the intensive care unit.
Another student, identified by authorities as William Williams, a 19-year-old freshman from Haddonfield, N.J., was also rushed to the Fuld emergency room. Williams, who already left the PKT house and was in Poyda Hall when medical services arrived, was released on Thursday afternoon following treatment.
Lawrence Township Police Department (LTPD) arrived on the Lawrenceville campus at 1:52 a.m. Thursday upon notification that a student was vomiting from heavy consumption of alcohol. DeVercelly allegedly drank three-quarters of a bottle of Absolut vodka within a 15-minute time span, according to a University official.
President Mordechai Rozanski released a statement sending good wishes to the family of DeVercelly and reiterating the University’s stance on alcohol abuse.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family in hopes for his complete recovery,” said Rozanski. “Alcohol abuse by college students is a national issue and remains an important concern that we as an educational community take very seriously.”
An investigation at PKT conducted by LTPD and the prosecutor’s office forced the fraternity members out of their building later Thursday morning. According to Dean of Students Tony Campbell, the members were instructed to stay with friends until the investigation was cleared. The PKT members living in the house, who are not a part of the University meal plan, were given access to meals for the day.
In sharp contrast to a resort-like exuberance that greeted the season’s first warm afternoons earlier this week, a stunned quiet prevailed across the Lawrenceville campus yesterday. Throughout the day, students could be seen gathering in small groups, talking about DeVercelly.
DeVercelly’s family members flew in from California and went directly to the hospital yesterday afternoon, where they met with Rozanski and Campbell, the dean of students said. Members of Greek organizations gathered in Gill Chapel for an 8 p.m. prayer service.
“Tonight we come together for a different reason,” said Father Bruno Ugliano, who hosted the service. “We come together as a community, to unite as brothers and sisters in hearts and in mind to raise our prayer to Gary, our bother, who right now is in the hospital.”
DeVercelly and Williams are “associate members” of PKT, said a University official, which indicates they are going through an initiation process to join the Greek organization. The terms “associate member” and “associate member process” are more commonly known as a “pledge” and the “pledge process.”
According to Rider’s code of conduct, The Source, “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally risks the mental, psychological or physical well-being of a student with or without his consent; which requires or encourages violation of public law or University policy; or which may tend to ridicule, mistreat, humiliate, or harass any individual” is prohibited.
Several students on the Lawrenceville campus voiced general disapproval of hazing.
“I don’t think you should have to injure yourself for a position to join a sorority or frat,” said freshman Danielle Jarrett.
PKT’s national Web site states, “Hazing has no place in the character-building process and will not be tolerated by the fraternity. Chapters and brothers who haze will be held accountable for their actions at every level.”
The fraternity’s Mid-Atlantic Domain Director Scott Brown visited yesterday with members of Rider’s chapter, Delta Psi, and University officials, said a statement on the national fraternity’s Web site.
Many students on the Lawrenceville campus were instructed by University officials on Thursday not to comment to the media about anything surrounding the situation. Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley instructed members of Greek organizations to remain silent, while Residence Life prohibited resident advisors and residence directors from talking to the media.
Campbell said the University’s addressing of the situation, and moving forward, will be contingent on the investigation.
“We have to wait until the investigation comes through and then we make decisions based on the facts and information we have,” said Campbell.
– Additional reporting by Paul Szaniawski