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Rider Dean and Adviser owed an apology: New Brunswick editorial

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Hazing charges were a sham
Home News Tribune Online 08/31/07

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This page has maintained from the outset that there may have been sufficient cause to question the policies and the practices at Rider University regarding alcohol consumption by students in the wake of a frat party at which one freshman drank himself to death, but the filing of criminal charges earlier this month against the school’s dean of students and a second Rider official never made sense. Fortunately, but hardly to its credit, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has finally yielded to reason, announcing Tuesday that it is dropping plans to prosecute Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley for aggravated hazing.

The sad part is that, although the charges were never warranted by any form of logic, prosecutors plunged ahead anyway, for reasons known only to them. By pressing forward without sound legal basis for the accusations, prosecutors were willing to tarnish the reputations of two school officials, not to mention put them through the emotional wringer of defending themselves in court and the possible loss of their jobs.

Those actions were wholly unnecessary, not to mention cruel.

Student Gary DeVercelly Jr. of Long Beach, Calif., died on March 30 with a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent, more than five times the legal limit of alcohol in the bloodstream for driving legally in New Jersey.

Terrible and tragic. But to hold school officials culpable when they have established clearly understandable prohibitions against alcohol use and stern punishments when those rules are broken? Not a chance.

Neither Campbell nor Badgley were present at the time that DeVercelly drank himself to death. Nor were they ever aware of the fraternity bash at which the alcohol was consumed. No piece of evidence of any kind linked the pair to the student’s death. Even so, prosecutors sought to hold the school chiefs at fault for the personal actions and choices of others beyond their control — never mind that the students were adults, fully competent and answerable for their own decisions.

In the end, the dismissal of charges is no doubt of great comfort to those besieged school officials, but it hardly excuses the course and the consequences sought by Mercer County’s guardians of the law. Campbell and Badgley are owed an apology.

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--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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