Baruch College Fraternity Closed After Freshman Hazing Death

The hazing death of a New York City freshman last week has led the Pi Delta Psi fraternity to shutter its chapter at Baruch College.

Chun “Michael” Deng, 19, died in a hospital after a blow to the head during a hazing ritual, according to Monroe County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney David Christine. Deng, a freshman studying finance, was one of about 30 students from Baruch, part of the City University of New York, taking part at the unsanctioned fraternity event in the Pocono Mountains.

Deng’s death is the latest stemming from hazing at a U.S. college. There have been at least 60 fraternity-related deaths since 2005, most involving hazing or alcohol, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Almost three-fourths of U.S. fraternity and sorority members have been hazed, according to a 2008 study by University of Maine professors.

“These hazing rituals are becoming more and more dangerous,” Susan Lipkins, a psychologist in Port Washington, New York, and author of a book on hazing, said in an interview. “Each semester the hazing tradition is followed but increased” in severity.

Baruch and Pi Delta Psi Fraternity Inc., the national organization based in Flushing, New York, condemned the actions leading to Deng’s death.

Values ‘Violated’

The Baruch chapter “has violated the values and rules of our organization, including our strict no-hazing policy,” the fraternity said in a statement yesterday on its website. “As a result, they shall no longer be recognized as having any association with Pi Delta Psi.”

The organization, which bills itself as an “Asian American Cultural Fraternity,” was founded in 1994 at Binghamton University in upstate New York.

Nationally, fraternity membership increased 29 percent to 327,260 in 2011 from 253,148 in 2005.

Of the recorded fraternity deaths since 2005, about 40 percent were freshmen, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The North-American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 75 national fraternities, has resisted efforts to postpone or restrict recruitment, going so far as to threaten legal action against universities for violating students’ rights to freedom of association. Pi Delta Psi isn’t part of the group, according to the Conference’s website.

Massachusetts Lawsuit

The national fraternity and its chapter at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were accused in a 2011 lawsuit in Worcester, Massachusetts, of serving alcohol to underage students. The plaintiff, Duy Truong, said he was seriously injured as a result.

Andy Meng, the fraternity’s national president, and Paul Leavis, a lawyer for Truong, didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail for comment on the case. A university spokesman, Daniel Fitzgibbons, didn’t have an immediate comment.

Baruch College President Mitchel Wallerstein said in a statement that the college “has a zero-tolerance policy regarding hazing.”

“Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy,” Wallerstein said in the Dec. 11 statement on Baruch’s website.

National fraternities need to do more than require new members to sign an agreement not to haze and to listen to an anti-hazing lecture, Lipkins said.

“The national fraternity has huge responsibility,” she said. “They do not appropriately warn parents that these things happen.”

Baruch, which has more than 17,000 students, was named after Bernard Baruch, a Wall Street financier who advised President Woodrow Wilson.

The case in Massachusetts is Truong v. Reyes et al, 11-01999-D, Superior Court of Massachusetts (Worcester).

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