The Princeton Borough has brought criminal charges against five Princeton University eating club officers and the two clubs of which they are members for serving alcohol to minors.
The charges, which were announced March 9 by Princeton Borough police chief Michael Carnevale, resulted from an investigation into incidents of alcohol abuse at the clubs' initiation parties February 6. The hearing will take place on April 20 at the Princeton municipal court.
The night of the initiation party, 46 students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, one of them a 19 year-old sophomore who fell into an alcohol-induced coma and nearly died.
Princeton has 13 eating clubs, where students take their meals and socialize. The Charter Club and Cloister Inn were the two clubs charged with the violations.
Both former and current officers of Cloister were charged because the new officers took office at midnight of the initiation party. The Charter officers had taken charge on February 1, so that only the new officers were charged.
"It's tough to accept something like this when you've only been president for five days, and you're being charged for something that's been going on for 10 years," Charter's newly appointed president Ken Simpler told The Daily Princetonian.
The students charged with the violations were Simpler, Charter's social chair Lisa Napolitano and Cloister's social chair Jim Martin, former president Jay Weiss and former social chair Kristin Seymour.
The criminal charges conclude the first part of the police investigation. In addition, inquiries will be made into allegations that the clubs have illegally used social fees to purchase alcohol for their members, for which an alcohol license would be necessary.
Because the clubs do not have licenses now, they are still considered private institutions, and are immune to searches by the police to check whether alcohol is served to minors.
A Cloister officer who asked not to be identified said although everyone is hoping that all the charges against the clubs will be dropped, she expects new charges to be brought.
"There is pressure from someone to make charges, so if these are dropped others will be made," she said. She added that the Cloister does not allocate social fees for alcohol.
The police are probably "making an example of someone after the Trenton convention," she said, referring to a convention attended by Princeton Dean of Students Eugene Lowe at which drinking on New Jersey campuses was discussed.
The Cloister officer said "it's all been a long time coming. This has been going on for years and years." She added that while some changes in alcohol policy will be probably be made, the eating clubs "are too integral a part of the university to be closed down. The university also doesn't have the facilities to feed the students." The clubs provide meals for 75 percent of the Princeton student body.
Stephen Cochran, assistant dean of students for Princeton University, said Cloister has been dry since February 6, and other clubs have made their drinking policies more stringent.
Attorney Kim Otis, who is representing the two Charter students, wrote a letter to the Princeton Borough Police Department in which he said the charges brought against his clients are "selective prosecution."
Cochran said there was no basis for Otis' charge. "Our own lawyer has said that there's no substance and that they're far-fetched," he said.
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