August 04, 2007
Aggravated hazing? Or aggravated Nifonging?
Last night I was reminded that there are murderous Muslim hardliners in this country who are determined to wage a sort of culture war against alcohol.
Fortunately (at least so I like to think), their efforts are laughable, and ultimately doomed to failure, as we already tried a "Noble Experiment" called Prohibition, and it failed. So, there's an overwhelming cultural consensus that prohibition of alcohol did not work. And people are responsible for their own actions where it comes to drinking.
Not so fast, if this story is any indication:
(8/04/07 - TRENTON, N.J.) - Two Rider University officials, including the dean of students, and three students were indicted Friday in the death of a freshman after a drinking binge at a campus fraternity house.Come again? A student acts like an idiot and drinks himself to death, and the dean is arrested?
Not in America. Please, someone, say it's not true!
Looking at the allegations, there's no question that he was seriously drunk. And that he told his friends (what a shock!) that he would be drinking:
DeVercelly's blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .426, authorities said.But what did the university employees do? Stand over him and pour vodka down his throat?
The prosecutor will not say, exactly. He just remarks the obvious -- that a lot of booze was consumed:
Bocchini wouldn't discuss evidence in detail, but he has said previously that the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour.What the hell is going on?
All I can see is a statement that "the standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully." Is "not policing carefully" now a criminal offense? What is the exact charge?
When I was a landlord in Berkeley I rented to students, and plenty of them drank, I'm sure. Was that my fault? How far does this "policing" go? Should the students' residences be subject to search? (Remember, these are not children; they are legal adults.) What is the dean supposed to do, and why stop with booze? If a fraternity threw a party where sex occurred and condoms weren't used and someone got an STD (say, AIDS), would they charge him with "not policing carefully"? Should the dean go into the students' bedrooms and crawl around with a flashlight?
I'm smelling an anti-alcohol, neo-prohibitionist campaign of some sort.
(Either that or Nifong changed his name and got rebadged as a New Jersey DA.)
These aren't exactly chump charges either. From the Tribune:
If convicted, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.For what? "Aggravated hazing" seems to be the only charge described.
Maybe the DA just wants attention after all.
UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer has more, but I'm still unclear on how the dean's conduct was criminal in nature:
Bocchini would not disclose the evidence that resulted in a grand jury indicting the five. However, he previously has said the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank bottles of liquor in less than an hour.The "way they handled oversight"? So, by not setting a school policy prohibiting alcohol at parties (never mind that many students are over 21), you're committing a major felony?
Remind me not to go into the dean business.
It's getting easier and easier to be a felon these days!
AND MORE: Bocchini
The charges against the Rider officials, who were not present at the fraternity house at the time of the hazing, represent one of the first cases in the country in which a university or college official has been held criminally responsible for excessive student drinking.Perhaps my legal education was an anomaly, but in law school I do remember being taught that public prosecutor's job is to uphold the law, and to seek justice.
I don't remember the "sending a message" part.
I could see a partisan organization like MADD wanting to do this, but DAs are not supposed to advance partisan agendas. I might be wrong, but something about the stated goal of the prosecution being to "send a message" to "colleges and universities" sounds like deliberate partisan grandstanding.
MORE: On a more cheerful note, the Times reports some encouraging student remarks:
....several students on campus said that university officials could hardly be blamed for students who drink too much. "If a student chooses to do it, that's not the dean of students' fault," said Hamzah Abushabun, 18, a freshman.I like seeing evidence of young people defying the system by actually engaging in common sense!
MORE: The Mercer County DA has now acheived international stardom!
posted by Eric on 08.04.07 at 10:00 AM
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