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Rowan leads the way in banning intoxication and hazing

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 Rowan goes on offensive to stop hazing
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
By Trish G. Graber
tgraber@sjnewsco.com

With Rider University cracking down on campus policies following the hazing death of a college freshman, some area universities have yet to budge on their own rules.

Rowan, however, has taken steps to alter its approach to Greek life.
“When something like the event at Rider happened … colleges and universities started looking at their policies as they relate to Greek life, hazing and alcohol,” said Rowan University Dean of Students George Brelsford.

At Rowan, alcohol is banned from all dorms. It is permitted only in campus apartments and townhouses occupied solely by students over 21.

Intoxication, no matter what age, is prohibited. And forget about beer pong, flip-cup, funnels or any drinking games for that matter, the university says.

While the university is reviewing those policies, officials have decided to take a more aggressive approach to hazing.

“We’ve always done training for our Greek students on hazing,” Brelsford said. “This year, every member of Greek organizations will sign a document on hazing. It amounts to an additional step in education.”

Officials have already discussed the issue with Greek leadership, but want to ensure that all students understand university policy.

“Even if a student is told We all are going to wear a suit,’ ” Brelsford said. We consider that hazing, because it’s creating a power differential. There’s no reason for it.”

The university will also have speakers discuss hazing with students. At Rider, school officials have barred alcohol in residence halls and Greek housing, as well as at school-sponsored events following the hazing death of freshman fraternity pledge, Gary DeVercelly Jr., whose blood alcohol level was .426 more than five times the legal limit.

Rider also decided to place directors in all Greek houses, to annually assess fraternities and sororities, and to enforce action plans when expectations are not met.
Other area universities, however, believe their hazing and alcohol policies are stringent enough.

“We felt like what we had in place was good,” said JoAnn Arnholt, dean of fraternity and sorority affairs at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “There wasn’t any need to do anything different.”

In Camden, Rutgers spokeswoman Kathy Donovan said campus officials there are also content with their rules.

“We’re largely a commuter population,” Donovan said. “Our student body, they sort of work to support themselves at home … this translates into how they conduct themselves.”

At both Rutgers campuses, students are required to sign a declaration acknowledging the ban on hazing. No alcohol is allowed at campus functions.

The Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house where DeVercelly Jr. consumed the alcohol which led to a .426 blood alcohol level and ultimately to his death was located on Rider’s campus.

Rutgers New Brunswick officials said barring alcohol at their Greek houses would be impossible.

“We don’t own any of our chapter houses,” said Arnholt. “Of 59 registered chapters, less than 20 live in a house. Our policy is the same as the national fraternity policies you can’t drink if you’re under 21.”

As for hazing: “You’re not allowed to do it.”

University of Delaware Student Centers Director Marilyn Prime said the campus has not changed alcohol policies, but follows Delaware law: 21 is the legal limit. Hazing is prohibited.

She noted that the university uses a Chapter Assessment Program modeled by other universities to assess academics, community involvement, management, and member development of fraternities and sororities, which has helped to manage behavior.

“Are we perfect? No. We have our issues, who doesn’t when working with fraternities and sororities in higher education? Yet, I do believe Greek life at Delaware may be far better … than at some other colleges or universities,” she said in an e-mail statement.

At Rowan, Brelsford said the university is doing what it can to learn from the incident at Rider.

“The problem that we deal with is, everyone of that age is invincible,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast that we deal with. Sometimes, it takes a crisis of that magnitude to understand what can happen.”

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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