37 Pi Delta Psi Fraternity Brothers Charged In Hazing Death of Pledge
On December 9, 2013, blindfolded and wearing a backpack filled with 30 pounds of sand, Baruch College freshman Chun “Michael” Deng was forced to navigate across a frozen yard while men he hoped to later call “brothers” tackled him. The 19-year-old died the next morning after being knocked unconscious that night.
Two years later, 37 members of Pi Delta Psi face a range of criminal charges in his hazing death, which include murder charges for five of them.
— 10 News (@WTSP10News) September 15, 2015
The Marco Polo-esque hazing ritual known as the “glass ceiling” was part of an annual Pi Delta Psi weekend retreat at a rental house in the Poconos. Deng and four other pledges participated that night while members of the Asian-American cultural fraternity hazed pledges by picking them up and and throwing them to the ground numerous times in a move known as “spearing.”
According to the New York Times, police said in a news release that after at least one tackle Deng complained that his head hurt but continued participating and was eventually knocked unconscious. Instead of contacting the authorities, Police say members carried Deng inside the house and contacted national fraternity president Andy Meng, who told them to hide all fraternity items. Members then changed Deng’s clothes and conducted Google searches for his injuries in an attempt to diagnose what was wrong with him.
That’s when reports state that Deng started having trouble breathing so three fraternity members drove hime to a hospital a half-hour away. Unfortunately when they finally arrived he was unable to be revived and died the next morning.
The Pocono Mountain Regional Police reported that a forensic pathologist determined Deng’s death resulted from multiple traumatic injuries and delayed medical care. The fraternity members potentially prevented life-saving medical attention by not immediately calling 911 and by transporting him to the hospital in a private car instead of an emergency vehicle.
Five members now face charges including involuntary manslaughter and third degree murder, which holds a 20-year maximum penalty. The other 32 face aggravated assault charges in addition to counts of criminal conspiracy and hazing.
Deng’s parents responded to the charges with a statement released by their family attorney that read:
Too many families have been devastated as a result of fraternity hazing, with at least one student dying every year from hazing since 1970. Fraternities and their members must be held accountable, and this step by authorities is an important one. Michael was a wonderful, beloved young man, and, in his honor, the family will also continue pursuing its wrongful death case against the fraternity to cause it and other fraternities to change so that other parents will be spared the loss of a precious child.
They also filed a $25 million lawsuit against Baruch College alleging that it knew about the dangerous fraternity tradition and failed to stop it, resulting in the death of their son.
Not only was the Pi Delta Psi fraternity permanently banned from the school after the death, but all of Baruch’s Greek Life community felt the consequences from that night as well. In 2014, the college instituted a suspension of all pledging activities for Greek Life campus organizations that was just extended for three years this spring, according to the Times.
Despite efforts by many fraternities and sororities to banish the practice of hazing, many organizations still view the tradition as a necessary part of their initiations. Until the issue is taken more seriously, future tragedies like Deng’s are simply inevitable.