At 3 a.m. a 19 year-old sophomore girl was taken to the hospital after she passed out at an all-night drinking party. By 3:19 a.m., she was pronounced dead. A sophomore at Rutgers University, Caitlyn Kovacs was an intelligent young woman with a bright future. Described by her friends as “energetic, upbeat and involved,” she was majoring in Animal Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Unfortunately, her life was cut short early Sunday morning. She was attending a supposed “small gathering” at the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity house when friends say they noticed she “appeared to be in distress,” according to New Brunswick prosecutor Andrew Carey. Police were notified at 3:28 — just nine minutes after her death — by hospital officials as their initial rulings showed her death to be alcohol-related.
Caitlyn Kovac was raised in Monmouth Junction, NJ, and a graduate of South Brunswick High School. Melissa Mielko, a friend she went to school with told the New York Daily News “She was always laughing, and making others laugh and smile as well. A good head on her shoulders.” Another high-school friend, who also attends Rutgers, Aaron Laserna, 19, reiterated her happiness, saying she was “always happy and fun to be around.” Aaron went on to say how involved she was with school events, even organizing a few. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
The University has set up grief counselors to help students cope with the loss of one of their own. Rutgers President, Robert Barchi, released a statement: “Her passing over the weekend is a tragic loss to her family, her friends, and the entire Rutgers community. This is a difficult time for everyone.”
Right now the heat is on the fraternity where she partied that night. Delta Kappa Epsilon (or DKE, for short) may have to deal with an array of issues in the time that follows. Right now, it’s reported that their members (55 of them) are cooperating with law enforcement, and the Spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said there was no expectation that charges will be filed in connection with the case. For now, at least.
Since the public has learned of Caitlyn’s death, there has been backlash within the community. Some are calling for the DKE chapter to lose their charter, which would effectively end their association with the university. Others, however, are outraged and calling for more action, such as murder charges to be filed.
It’s easy to point the finger at a fraternity, especially when cases like this occur — and DKE is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, at the Yale chapter of DKE, there was a hazing incident that went public, making headlines. A pledge-event that included “sexually-explicit chanting” caught the eye of the university. They were banned for a year from conducting fraternal activities on campus, including recruitment.
Fraternities, college-level athletic teams, and other groups have been targeted in the past, all over the country in many universities. Sometimes, action is needed to restore order. Other times, they are wrongfully accused and face draconian sanctions. It’s important to look at every incident with an open eye. Don’t let the one bad apple spoil the bunch. Are DKE to blame here? It’s too early to know right now. As police and the DA’s office continue to investigate this matter, the real story will reveal itself.
Right now, it’s important to remember Caitlyn for the individual she was, and to lend her family the support they need.