- Greeks Continue to Receive Poor National Press
- Indiana Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Phi Kappa Psi
- NPC Chair: "Let Our Voices Be Heard"
- Anti-Hazing Hotline Welcoming New Sponsor
- Student Death Could Lead to Criminal Charges, Civil Suit, and Revised Laws
- Memo to Board Members: There are times when we must close—not continue with “conditions”—chapters
Newsletter > March 2014 > "Student Death Could Lead to Criminal Charges, Civil Suit, and Revised Laws"
Student Death Could Lead to Criminal Charges, Civil Suit, and Revised Laws
New York lawmakers are taking steps to strengthen the state’s anti-hazing laws after the death of a Baruch College fraternity member.
Chun “Michael” Deng died after sustaining a brain injury during a hazing ritual on a Pi Delta Psi trip to Pennsylvania. Deng was injured while participating in an initiation ritual with other pledges at a home in Tunkhannock Township, Pennsylvania. News reports have called the initiation the “glass ceiling,” a challenge in which pledges are blindfolded, required to wear backpacks weighted with 20-pounds of sand, and must try to reach a goal while other fraternity members attempt to prevent them. During the challenge Deng was knocked unconscious.
According to court papers, Pi Delta Psi members did not immediately dial 911, and instead Googled his symptoms, waiting an hour before they drove him to the local hospital. Police reports described the fraternity members as initially “evasive” with investigators. Police further allege Deng’s “big brother” called from the hospital to members of Pi Delta Psi still at the house, telling them to get rid of anything that would identify them as fraternity members. Police ultimately seized a heap of fraternity items, along with suspected marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and paddles at the house.
The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office has ruled Deng’s death a homicide, meaning that the fraternity members involved may face serious charges. The Monroe County district attorney has indicated that he intends to file criminal charges.
Baruch College has responded by permanently banning the fraternity. A press release by Baruch College claimed the retreat was unsanctioned and violated the College’s anti-hazing rules along with the anti-hazing agreement signed by officers of Pi Delta Psi. Pi Delta Psi’s national organization also said the gathering was unsanctioned and in violation of its policies.
Pi Delta Psi, which described itself as an Asian cultural organization, recognized four pillars: Academic Achievement, Cultural Awareness, Righteousness, and Friendship/Loyalty.
New York assemblyman David Weprin has announced a bill dubbed “Michael’s Law” in memory of Michael Deng. It aims to expand current anti-hazing statutes.
Hazing is already illegal in New York. Currently, a person is guilty of hazing in the first degree when “…in the course of another person’s initiation into or affiliation with any organization, he intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person and thereby causes such injury.” N.Y. Penal Law §120.16
Weprin’s bill would expand NY’s current anti-hazing statute, which bans activities that can harm the body, to prohibit all “physical conduct and physical activities required from fraternities during the pledging ceremonies.”
While traditional civil actions may be available, it does not appear the expanded anti-hazing law would provide any new civil remedies. Some states, including Ohio, have adopted laws that specifically create a civil action for a person subjected to hazing.
The lawyer for Deng’s family has stated that there will be civil litigation directed at those responsible for Deng’s death.