A distraught family is suing Baruch College in New York City for $25 million after their son, Michael Deng, died in a fraternity hazing ritual. The lawsuit comes after Deng’s parents sued the fraternity Pi Delta Psi and multiple members for his 2013 death. The lawsuit states the school knew about the dangerous rituals the fraternity engaged in, and failed to intervene.
The ritual that ended in Deng’s death is called “The Gauntlet.” The fraternity went on a weekend retreat to a house in Pennsylvania in the middle of winter. New fraternities members were blindfolded and forced to carry a 20 pound backpack filled with sand across a snowy field while older members tackled and charged at them. Deng fell and hit his head after a member wrestled him to the ground, resulting in a serious brain injury.
Fellow fraternity members, too scared they would get in trouble themselves, called their organization’s president instead of 911. The president told the members to destroy all incriminating evidence, and members Googled Deng’s symptoms before finally driving him to the hospital. He died shortly after.
In response to the tragic death, Baruch College instituted a ban for three years on all Greek rush and pledge activities. Organizations must submit lists of their members to the Office of Student Life and organize all of their social activities on campus grounds. All the Greek houses must also participate in anti-hazing, anti-bullying, and sexual assault prevention training programs. Baruch also completely banned Pi Delta Psi, and the national fraternity revoked its affiliation with the chapter.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Hazing Rituals
Wrongful death lawsuits against fraternities is an ever growing problem. Since 2005, more than 60 people have died in incidents stemming from fraternities. In addition to wrongful death, multiple students in the Greek system suffer from assaults, serious injuries, and sexual crimes.
Joining the Greek system is a dream for a majority of high school students. Being in a fraternity or sorority is a huge part of the whole college experience. In movies, the Greek houses are fun, a great way to meet friends, and throw the biggest parties. For most chapters, all of this is true. What most movies do not show though, is the price you have to pay to join one.
In addition to physical torment, mental issues are also linked to the Greek system. Sorority girls are more likely to develop eating disorders and be victims of sexual assault. Fraternity men, due to the highly sexist atmosphere houses provide, are more likely to commit sexual assault. Greek members are also more likely to abuse prescription drugs.
Forty-four U.S. states currently have anti-hazing laws. Most of the time, these laws will not stop the Greek system from engaging in historic rituals. Due to the estimated $3 billion collective value of these houses, private owners and colleges won’t be demolishing any fraternity or sorority anytime soon. We can just hope more restricting hazing laws are implemented, and members will be more worried about their friends’ safety, instead of their own legal liability.