Baruch College Student Dies in Fraternity Hazing Ritual in the Poconos
NEW YORK — Police are investigating the death of 19-year-old Baruch College student Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng, who died during a fraternity trip in Pennsylvania, according to school officials.
Deng, a freshman studying finance who was pledging the Pi Delta Psi fraternity, suffered traumatic brain injury during a fraternity pledging ritual in the Poconos early Sunday morning, The Morning Call reported.
According to The New York Times, Deng had been playing the game "Glass Ceiling," in which a person is blindfolded and has a heavy object placed on his back. The individual then attempts to find someone who is calling for him, all while others try to tackle him.
"The preliminary reports indicate that Michael died over the weekend while participating in an unsanctioned fraternity pledging event in the Poconos, PA," school president Mitchel B. Wallerstein said in a statement released Wednesday. "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 the matter."
Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine Jr. told The Times that while the details of what exactly took place are still under investigation, there was no ambulance called and no medical service was provided before someone drove him to Wilkes-Barre Hospital in critical condition on Sunday morning.
Deng, who is from Oakland Gardens, Queens, and attented the elite Bronx High School of Science, had been staying in a Tunkhannock Township home in Monroe County with 30 fraternity members from New York City just before his death, according to reports.
"He's a very cool guy," said Jason Lin, 18, a Baruch freshman who attended a Pi Delta Psi rush event with Deng earlier this fall, speaking with tears in his eyes. "He's a funny guy."
Lin described Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity, as one of the "cooler" and "down to earth" fraternities on campus, but said that he had no idea what went on in the pledging process.
“It’s secretive,” Lin said.
The national fraternity opened a chapter at Baruch on Dec. 5, 2010, according to the fraternity's main website. The fraternity said the pledge process is meant to encourage existing members to mentor new ones.
"Regardless of the many definitions and standards of what is considered 'hazing,' the National Board takes any hazing allegations very seriously, and will respond appropriately," the fraternity's website states.
All members of fraternities and sororities on Baruch's campus are required to attend an orientation and training session at the beginning of the academic year, which includes anti-hazing training, according to Baruch.
Students attending the orientation are required to sign statements saying that they understand and will abide by Baruch's anti-hazing policies, Baruch said.
"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," said the statement from Baruch. "Our deepest sympathies go out to Michael's family and his friends both at Baruch and at home."
Pi Delta Psi did not respond to requests for comment.