By Stephen Neukam, Shaun Chornobroff and Dylan Manfre
Three student-athletes have been removed from on-campus housing after attending an out-of-state party on the weekend of Oct. 25 and returning to Rider without notifying the school, according to top university officials.
The students were reported to Public Safety by other student-athletes on Oct. 29 after they attended a party at Ohio State University, according to Public Safety. University officials did not refute this account.
They were initially moved to on-campus quarantine housing and were subsequently removed from university housing on Oct. 30. Ohio has been on the New Jersey state quarantine list since Oct. 13.
Interim Public Safety Cpt. Matthew Babcock said that the students returned to their daily activities on the campus without notifying university officials about the trip.
Athletic Director Don Harnum said that he was aware of the situation but would allow the university to conduct its judicial process before making a determination about punishments from his department.
“This is a bigger issue than athletics,” said Harnum. “Let them figure [it] out … they might be expelled. I don’t know.”
Three university officials, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla, Director of the Office of Community Standards Keith Kemo and Harnum, refused to disclose what team the students were on and said that the university was going through its disciplinary process.
The incident comes after the athletic department held a large meeting about student-athletes’ conduct and coronavirus protocols on Sept. 29. Students in that meeting said that Harnum threatened athletes with severe consequences if their conduct did not improve.
“I think getting people to understand that it is a collective responsibility is important,” Harnum said in a Nov. 2 interview with The Rider News. “I think it’s a positive thing that athletes are trying to police each other. You want to play, it takes all of us to be able to do this, all of us to be responsible and live in a different environment right now… I think it’s a positive thing that athletes are looking out for each other and trying to hold each other accountable.”
Students in the September meeting also said that Harnum claimed he had to meet with the administration consistently about student-athlete misconduct.
Despite seeing another violation, Harnum said this week he isn’t overwhelmingly worried.
“I’m concerned to a degree,” Harnum said. “I don’t think we’ve had more incidents than any other school in the country is dealing with either, I don’t think anything’s been totally unexpected or out of the ordinary.”
Stasolla did not acknowledge that there has been a pattern of misconduct among student-athletes.
“I don’t know, out of all of the numbers of incidents in the code of conduct … what percentage of those included student-athletes,” said Stasolla.
According to officials, the decision to remove the students from university housing was an interim measure.
Kemo said that depending on the severity of the threat that students pose to the university, interim measures may be implemented, such as removing them from campus, “to pull a student out of a situation for the safety of themselves or the larger Rider community.”
As of Nov. 2, a total of 71 students have been disciplined for coronavirus violations through 24 incidents, according to Kemo.
According to New Jersey’s advisory about interstate travel, individuals who travel to Ohio should quarantine for 14 days upon returning.