Hazing Can Lead To Wrongful Death

With summer around the corner, many young adults are preparing for their first year of college. Others are returning and continuing on their paths towards a degree that will help these individuals in their future careers. Along the way, students participate in clubs, sports and activities to cultivate school spirit and to find a home with like-minded people. Many of these young adults pledge for a Greek organization for connections, friendship and history. These groups have been around for many years and help individuals grow with concepts learned through generations of alumni. However, there is also a certain awareness known to the general public about the dangers of some organizations and the methods used to encourage such a bond. These techniques—through pop culture and myths–are known to many as hazing.

As such, though news coverage and the media has shown how detrimental hazing can be, many organizations still use this tactic as a pledging service or dedication service for gaining association. National studies indicate that on a collegiate level hazing is a ritual that continues because of the sense of “tradition”. In 2011, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity was under a lot of scrutiny because the Cornell chapter hazed a student into drinking himself to death. In 2012, a marching band student at Florida A&M University (FAMU) was beaten so bad that he died from the injuries sustained from his marching band peers. Both rituals ended with brothers or band mates getting charged with criminal violations that resulted in jail, community service and probation [1]. Recently, this pledging service has caught the attention of the media because of a fatality that happened in 2013 and is now being criminally charged and civilly litigated.

The Story

An Asian American cultural brotherhood called the Pi Delta Psi fraternity is the current organization under fire for the death of one former pledging brother who was killed due to a hazing ritual. This ritual was called the Glass Ceiling. The game involves blindfolding a person who is also carrying a backpack full of sand while running to an older brother who is calling to them. During this competition, members of the organization tackle or hit the pledging member to try and prevent them from finding their way. Their reasoning behind this game was to emulate the realities of being an Asian American in the United States. They described it as a parallel to society knocking down individuals because of their minority status. Regardless of the meaning, not only was it unsafe to hit someone at full speed without protection or awareness, but also the fraternity was practicing these rituals during a late cold night at Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania, where the ground was frozen and the temperature was just above freezing. Unfortunately, all of these combining factors, including the negligence of the brothers at the scene, lead to the death of Chun Hsien Deng (Michael Deng).

Deng was hit hard and suffered major brain trauma while taking part in the game. He suffered the blow early on a Sunday morning and was unresponsive to attending members. When the members realized something was wrong, they carried him to a rented house in the area and tried to wake him up. After a long period of time, the fraternity members took him to the emergency room in the nearby area. He was placed on life support and died the very next day. Now, the family wants fault and justice. The local police and district attorney have investigated the death and determined that 37 brothers as well as the Pi Delta Psi organization and university of the chapter, Baruch College, will be held liable for Deng’s death. The brothers will face charges ranging from third-degree murder and assault to hindering apprehension and conspiracy. The university and fraternal organization will face civil charges to pay damages in a wrongful death suit [2].

Regrettably the acts of hazing from all organizations will continue to damage the lives of families until there are drastic measures taken. Holding the members, school and organization liable is a major stride in warning off other organizations from doing the same thing. There is no way to regulate safe from dangerous hazing because of the potential to always take it up a notch. The Glass Ceiling for the brothers of Pi Delta Psi could be seen as a late night scrimmage gone wrong. The SAE incident at Cornell can be seen as college students getting too drunk at a party. The marching band FAMU accident could have been seen as building a tougher character. In the end, it’s that extra step that leads to fatal endings. Hazing to gain association with any type of organization is never going to be a good thing. These “traditions” are barbaric and the people involved should be educated enough by now to know that it is not worth it.

Dolman Law Group

If you or a loved one has been involved in a hazing event gone wrong, you may be entitled to compensation. If unfortunately this incident results in a death of a loved one, you may have a wrongful death claim within reason. The lawyers at Dolman Law Group are prepared to help in any way they can to secure the amount needed in order to pay for any damages that resulted from the injury. Don’t let the negligence and actions of others harm you. The “supposed” loyalty that you gain from pledging was severed when they decided to cause more harm than good. Make them pay for it. Call (727) 853-6275.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275



[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/death-of-florida-am-drum-major-ruled-a-homicide/
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/nyregion/baruch-college-fraternity-hazing-death-case.html