NEW YORK (PIX11) – Fraternity hazing may be what killed a Baruch College freshman, according to police in eastern Pennsylvania, where the ritual in which he was fatally involved took place.
Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng, 19, was in the Poconos with about 30 members of the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity over the weekend, when he was fatally injured. Deng was among four pledges in the group.
Pi Delta Psi is an “Asian-American cultural fraternity,” according to the organization’s website.
The ritual took place in the yard of a home on Candlewood Drive in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, Sunday morning.
According to police there, the freshman ended up with major brain trauma. The fraternity brothers in attendance did not take their injured pledge to the hospital until after he was unresponsive for some time, according to investigators.
“That’s very devastating,” said Baruch College senior Grace Kim. She said that she, like many students at the campus in midtown, have friends in Asian fraternities and sororities. John Cha, also a senior, said he is personal friends with one of Deng’s fraternity brothers, and that this was not the sort of behavior anyone would anticipate coming from the student organization.
“You would expect more of that in more of a bigger campus, where hazing is more intense, instead of a [City University of New York] school,” said Cha, “So for me it’s kind of a shock.”
Cha pointed out that Baruch College does not have any fraternity or sorority houses. Almost all Baruch Greek-letter organization activities occur on other campuses or away from Baruch’s two-block urban campus. This fraternity ritual death is no exception.
The Facebook page for the fraternity’s Baruch chapter has been taken down.
Baruch College released a statement Wednesday saying, in part, “Baruch College is saddened to confirm the recent death of Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng, a Baruch freshman, as reported to us by the president of the national fraternity Pi Delta Psi. The preliminary reports indicate that Michael died over the weekend while participating in an unsanctioned fraternity pledging event in the Poconos, PA. Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class. Pi Delta Psi did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter.”
The statement goes on to say that Baruch has a “zero tolerance policy” on hazing.
“Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put in a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy. Our deepest sympathies go out to Michael’s family and his friends at Baruch and at home.”
The college says it is conducting its own internal review, as well as cooperating fully with law enforcement.
As for people on campus familiar with members of the fraternity, shock remains.
“I really didn’t know it was that severe,” Baruch junior Sarah Kim said about fraternity rituals. “I thought hazing was just a thing to get to know people at school, just to get to know each other.”
There have been no arrests in the case. Detectives continue to interview fraternity members and college officials.