Hazing News

Anonymous calls by parents of students being hazed may be part of the school safety problem

Article here from Pennsylvania/New Jersey newspaper, the Easton Express


Drinking and hazing focus at school start
Case of administrators charged in student death grabs attention of officials at colleges, universities.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Express-Times

EASTON | As students flood colleges and universities, administrators and advisers are reviewing and reiterating hazing and drinking policies in the wake of a Rider University court case.

Three students, the dean of students and the director of Greek life were indicted earlier this month on a charge of fourth-degree aggravated hazing in the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr. The two administrators have pleaded not guilty.

DeVercelly, 18, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.43 percent when he was pronounced dead March 30 at a Trenton hospital, according to The Associated Press. DeVercelly died one day after drinking at a party at the Phi Kappa Tau house, a social fraternity on the Lawrenceville, N.J., campus.

“It’s a hot-button issue, in particular for fraternity and sorority advisers,” said Chris Jachimowicz, director of Greek affairs at Muhlenberg College. “It has the potential to change the relationship or the desire for colleges and universities to have Greek organizations.”

Jachimowicz said the key to the case is how the prosecutor is going to link the advisers to the fraternity event even though they weren’t present at the event.

“It’s a wait-and-see situation,” Jachimowicz said.

John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs with Lehigh University, said officials are concerned about what the Rider case may mean for staff.

“But we’re primarily concerned about the welfare and safety of our students,” Smeaton said.

Most schools have hazing policies outlining prohibited behavior.

Lafayette College spokeswoman Kristine Todaro said the school takes a three-pronged approach to handling hazing: educating students about the health and effects of drinking, campus rules and state laws.

“We’re not doing anything new in light of this case,” Todaro said.

Lehigh University has a medical amnesty policy in which students can seek emergency medical attention for alcohol or illegal drugs and not violate the university’s code of conduct. The policy does not grant amnesty from the legal consequences of consuming alcohol or drugs, however.

Centenary College does not have national fraternities or sororities, or houses, said Bryon Grigsby, the college’s provost and chief operating officer.

Grigsby said the college reviewed its safety policies and procedures in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Changes included bringing campus security in-house.

The college has a “three strikes” policy for drinking offenses that involves alcohol counseling, fines and community service. On the second offense, the bill payer is informed of offenses. On the third offense, the student loses college housing.

“We feel we have a very strong policy against drinking,” Grigsby said.

Rider dissolved the campus’ Phi Kappa Tau chapter but has 14 other social fraternities and sororities, in addition to the honorary/academic Greek organizations, according to the university’s Web site. Jachimowicz said Rider is hiring live-in consultants to be placed within certain fraternities and sororities.

Jachimowicz said part of the problem is students and even families report hazing but don’t want to be identified.

“In the three and a half years I’ve been here, every report of hazing has been filed anonymously,” Jachimowicz said. “I’ve even gotten phone calls from parents refusing to say who they are.”

The Association of Fraternity Advisors has received numerous inquiries regarding the Rider University case, and it’s a topic on the association’s online forum, said Linda A. Wardhammar, the association’s executive director.

Wardhammar said members are discussing possible repercussions with supervisors, talking with student leaders and reviewing policies and procedures.

“We’re waiting to see what happens to know really what it all means for our practice and what we do if we’re vulnerable,” Wardhammar said.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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