Phi Kappa Tau fraternity dissolved in July after tragic death of pledge

By Steph Mostaccio

Each year there are about 3,500 undergraduate members in the Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity at college campuses throughout the nation, according to the Web site www.phikappatau.org.

Rider students have been contributing to this number for the past 20 years. However, their contribution ends this year because the University has decided to dissolve its PKT chapter, Delta Psi. Dean of Students Anthony Campbell informed the fraternity members on July 23 that Rider withdrew its recognition of the chapter.

The disbanding comes after the March 30 death of freshman Gary DeVercelly, a pledge who died from alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking at a PKT party two days earlier. According to the Mercer County prosecutor DeVercelly’s blood-alcohol level was 0.426, more than five times the legal limit for driving in New Jersey.

“The facts uncovered during the investigation indicate that dangerous underage drinking occurred at an unregistered party in the fraternity house, resulting in the death of a student,” President Mordechai Rozanski wrote in a statement to the Rider community on Aug. 3. “Consequently, we have dissolved the Phi Kappa Tau chapter on our campus.”

According to Debbie Stasolla, associate vice president for planning, the chapter is therefore no longer an active, recognized or registered organization at the University.

Junior Dior Furman, a PKT member since last fall, said the dissolution of Delta Psi does not surprise him.

“Somebody had to pay for it,” he said. “There had to be some repercussions for our actions because what we were doing was pretty irresponsible.”

Furman acknowledged that he and his brothers created a dangerous environment in which something was bound to happen. But he added that the PKT brothers are not the only group of college students who like to party.

“This could have happened at any college campus,” he said. “We just happened to be that fraternity house at Rider.”

Although PKT is dissolved, the members are still allowed to live on campus. According to Stephanie Polak, associate director of Residence Life, the University advised these students last semester to prepare for a non-Greek residence hall.

“At the time of room selection last spring, we told everyone to go through regular room selection,” said Polak.

Some PKT members decided to remain on campus while others chose to live in off-campus housing.

Junior Donte Carty, another student who became a PKT member last fall, said it is comforting for him to know that many of his fraternity brothers will not be too far away.

“It’s upsetting, but we as brothers will still be around and hang out with each other,” he said.

However, some PKT members, like Furman, have decided to transfer. He will now be attending Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla.

Living more than 1,000 miles away from his fraternity brothers is going to be difficult for Furman.

“I’ll miss the people and the fun that I had there,” he said.

PKT is not the first Greek organization that the University has shut down. According to Polak, within the past 25 years, it has dissolved four fraternities — Theta Chi, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa and a former Tau Kappa Epsilon — and one sorority — Delta Zeta — for various reasons.

The PKT house has already been changed into a new residence hall called Lake House. It will accommodate about 50 students, the majority of which are new transfers. No PKT members will be living in the building.

According to Michael Maconi, director of Facilities Management, three outside contractors helped Facilities transform the fraternity house into a residence hall between July 30 and Aug. 31. Maconi said he is pleased with how quick the renovations were completed.

“I would like to praise the outside contractors who completed a monumental renovation project in a short time frame, which was only one month,” he said.

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