Fraternities create a social haven for young men during the challenging college years, an immediate peer cohort, and— in some case— leadership training and career networking. When initially founded in this country, these features were priorities for the national fraternities. Many adult men look back at their fraternity experiences as truly formative and positive.
Chun Hsien Deng will not have that opportunity. He died in yet another instance of fraternity hazing which took place in the Poconos, PA last weekend, reported Ariel Kaminar and Ashley Southall (New York Times, “Freshman at Baruch Dies After Fraternity Ritual In The Poconos,” 12/12/13). Deng suffered major brain trauma in the process of complying with an extreme fraternity initiation, and died at Geisinger Hospital, with no one calling an ambulance or giving even basic medical assistance in advance.
Neither the university nor national office of the fraternity can be held entirely responsible. All fraternity and sorority members at Baruch, and most colleges and universities, are required to attending sensitivity training on hazing and to sign statements attesting to their understanding of the dangers of hazing and their pledge not to participate in it. Yet this fatality happened, as many others have happened before. Is peer pressure really so powerful that not one student can step away from dangerous hazing and call 911 or text a trusted friend who will relay the information to authorities?
Parents need to speak up before a son joins a fraternity. The opportunities and dangers need to be thoroughly discussed, along with the legal liability of being a fraternity brother who participates in dangerous hazing, which leads to injury or death. Family values can make a difference, and no one can expect the admonishments of university personnel or of a local chapter alumnus rep to have an impact in the absence of parental input.