Five members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity are facing charges of third-degree murder, with 32 other members being charged with various offenses, which range from hindering apprehension, concealing or destroying evidence, and providing false information. All charges relate to the death of Chun Shien ‘Michael” Deng, a Baruch College freshman killed during a hazing ritual on Dec. 9, 2013.
Charges vary in severity from those peripherally involved to those most involved in Deng’s murder.
Christine Latouf, vice president for communications, external relations and economic development, at Baruch College, emphasized that not all students charged are enrolled Baruch students. “We are assessing the list from the Pocono’s police against our student rosters, but not everyone involved is from Baruch.”
On Tuesday evening, Baruch President Mitchel Wallerstein issued an official statement to all Baruch students in response to the charges brought against individuals involved in or affiliated with Deng’s death.
“In the wake of Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng’s tragic death in December 2013, Baruch College has taken strong action to ensure the safety and well being of all students who participate in student organizations on campus,” Wallerstien wrote. “Baruch immediately instituted a permanent ban of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity. Starting in the fall of 2014, Baruch also instituted a suspension of all pledging activities for Campus Greek Life organizations.”
The pledging ban referred to by Wallerstein specifically applies to social Greek organizations and not other professional Greek organizations, according to Latouf. Since the moratorium, , involvement in Greek activity has plunged.
“On one hand during my tenure, I’ve seen and met some amazing organizations. And I’ve seen the vast majority do wonderful things and contribute greatly to their community, and it isn’t right that they have to be treated as one and the same as the bad apples,” said Justin Johnson of Baruch’s Alpha Phi Delta.
“However, I also realize that … we’re in an ‘attention economy’ where people don’t see their organization or their chapter but see all Greeks as the same. Outside of politics, parents have lost their child. They deserve justice, and I can understand the school’s position in trying to distance [itself] from any association with Greek life.”
Michael Deng was one of four pledges who participated in an unsanctioned pledging for the Psi Delta Pi Fraternity. More than thirty members of the organization spent the weekend in Tunkhannok Township in Pennsylvania, where Deng participated in a ritual recognized as the “Glass Ceiling.”
According to court documents, this practice requires that blindfolded pledges carry a weighted backpack. The pledges must find their way to a brother calling their name, while other fraternity brothers tackle the new members.
Deng, resistant to the fraternity’s indoctrination, was treated more harshly than other pledges. Hit repeatedly, Deng continued to participate in the hazing ritual despite complaints of head pain, and during the activity, Deng was knocked unconscious after being aggressively “speared” by fraternity brothers, according to court documents. He did not receive immediate medical attention.
The student was carried into the rented home, where scrambling members of the fraternity began to research Deng’s symptoms, giving him water and chocolate to try to revive him. They eventually contacted national fraternity official, Andy Meng, who ordered the brothers to hide all fraternity paraphernalia, according to court documents.
Deng was driven to the hospital by three Pi Delta Psi members but could not be revived. The police report concludes that the cause of death was severe head trauma.
The first five students charged were arraigned Sept. 17, Pocono Mountain Regional Police said on Tuesday. Earlier this year, Xiu Fen Lu, the mother of Michael Deng, planned to sue Baruch College.
According to the New York Times, Deng’s family has gone forward in issuing a wrongful-death lawsuit seeking changes in Psi Delta Pi and other fraternities. They hope this is the first step in sparing other parents the loss of an innocent child.
As of Sep. 18, the most recent available court documents indicate Liu was granted a late-filing extension, meaning she was granted extra time to submit documents for a lawsuit against Baruch. There is no indication of a formal lawsuit being filed, according to information made available on the New York State Court of Claims MacLaw database.