Hazing may have led to Penn State Altoona student’s suicide

Rich Braham’s son, Marquise, was a freshman at Penn State Altoona and pledging Phi Sigma Kappa.  Marquise discussed with a friend the extreme hazing pledges were subjected to.  The hazing allegedly included fraternity brothers giving Marquise the choice to either sniff a line of cocaine or be violated with a sex toy.  While on spring break, Marquise jumped from a Uniondale hotel roof.

Read the full article here.

Baruch College Freshman Died on Fraternity Trip

Chen “Michael” Deng, a freshman at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York, died on Monday following an unsanctioned fraternity trip to the Poconos.  Michael was one of four pledges, and 30 members, of Pi Delta Psi on the trip, and he suffered an injury while “partaking in a ritual” early Sunday morning.  Michael became unresponsive, and fraternity members eventually took him to the hospital, where he was determined to have suffered major brain trauma and placed on life support.  He died the next day.  Police are investigating the cause and circumstance of Michael’s death.

DC Lawyer Devotes Practice to Hazing Victims

Doug Fierberg isn’t looking for accolades.  An attorney with Bode & Grenier, LLP, a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, Fierberg has been lead counsel for several victims of hazing, sexual assault and other violence associated with school or institutional settings.  His website – www.hazinglaw.com – is dedicated to the legalities connected with hazing and the injury and death it causes.  Read the full article.

Freshman Death Following Fraternity Event, California

Eighteen year old Peter Tran, a freshman at San Francisco State University, died on April 24, 2013, following an event at the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity house.  Peter was a star running back at George Washington High School and was in the pre-nursing program at SFSU.  While the cause of death is under investigation, Lambda Phi Epsilon has a history of extreme hazing, and lawsuits against it, including at Cal Poly Pomona, University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University.   The fraternity chapter was placed on immediate suspension pending the University’s review of its, and its members’, conduct.

Four Men Charged with Hazing Deaths, Virginia

Four men have been charged with hazing after the drowning deaths of two students at Virginia State University.  A statement released by the University read, “Virginia State University regrets to inform our community that two VSU freshmen, Jauwan Holmes and Marvell Edmonson, have been reported missing following an incident at the Appomattox River in Petersburg.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of our students.  We ask the VSU community to come together during this time and to offer one another support and strength.”  Jauwan and Marvell were among seven students attempting to join “Men of Honor,” and as a rite of initiation were required to swim across the river.  The other five students were pulled to safety.

Three Criminally Charged in Hazing Death of Philip Dhanens, California

The Fresno County District Attorney has filed criminal charges against three individuals for the September 1, 2012, hazing death of freshman Philip Dhanens as he pledged Theta Chi Fraternity at Fresno State.  The three fraternity members, Aaron Raymo, Leonard Serrato and Daniel Baker, were each charged with two misdemeanors for hazing and providing alcohol to a minor, punishable by 6-12 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

Sigma Alpha Mu Suspended After Freshman Pledge Death, Massachusetts

Boston University suspended the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter following the death of freshman pledge Anthony Barksdale II.  An off-campus party was held for the six new prospective members of the chapter, at a house leased exclusively by SAM members.  Anthony, a graduate of Souhegan High School, where he excelled in football and basketball, was found unconscious around midnight, reportedly after being compelled to consume lethal quantities of alcohol.  911 was called, and Anthony was pronounced dead hours later at the hospital.  Anthony would have turned 19 next month.

Arrests in a Freshman’s Drinking Death Reflect a Tougher Approach

The arrests amount to one of the largest numbers of people to be criminally charged in a single college hazing episode, reflecting recent efforts by the police and prosecutors around the country to enforce anti-hazing laws more aggressively.  But some experts said the message was unlikely to make a lasting change in college drinking culture.  “Things tend to go back to normal because the institutional memories at universities change every four years,” said Douglas E. Fierberg, a Washington lawyer who specializes in hazing death cases.  “The new freshmen know nothing about what happened four years earlier.”  Read the full article here.

“Mom’s Night” New Twist on Big Brother Ritual

On November 2, 2012, Northern Illinois University freshman David Bogenberger participated in “Mom’s Night” as part of his pledging process into Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.  “Mom’s Night” is reportedly a tradition at NIU, participated in by most fraternities and often on the same day.  In seeking to identify his “pledge mom,” an upperclass sorority member hidden behind any one of a number of closed doors, the fraternity pledge is forced to drink between two and five shots of liquor each time he chooses the wrong door.  On his “Mom’s Night,” David became incapacitated, was placed in a room to sleep and was found the next morning unresponsive.  David is survived by his parents and four siblings, including his triplet brother and sister.

Despite prevention efforts, hazing persists on campuses

USA Today author Mary Beth Marklein looks at hazing issues:

“You can’t start (fixing the problem) unless you start getting open disclosure about the problem around the country, ” says Washington lawyer Douglas Fierberg, who has represented numerous parents of children who died as a result of hazing.  “Everyone is left talking about an elusive problem without having access to the factual information.”

Read the full article here.

Clearing Up Hazing: Opponents are Pushing for Stricter Laws

From the ABA Journal:  

“Our view, and it is shared by our clients, is that ultimately the industry will not be made safer and ultimately fewer people will experience the traumatic injury and death that has come with fraternities until change is made at the national level,” [Attorney Doug] Fierberg says.  He favors wholesale moves such as alcohol-free fraternity housing, live-in management, and increased disclosure by fraternities and schools of incidents involving hazing.

Read the full article here

Fraternity Pledge Death, California

Fresno State University freshman Philip Dhanens, of Bakersfield, California, died Sunday after a Friday night party at the Theta Chi fraternity.  Dhanens was a standout on his high school football team and prom king his senior year.  Alcohol is believed to be a factor in his death, but the autopsy and toxicology results are pending.  A Theta Chi member at one point that night put Dhanens in the fraternity house “sober up room,” and later found him there unconscious.  Both Fresno State and the Theta Chi national fraternity suspended the chapter on Saturday, before Dhanens’ death.  This is the second fraternity pledge death at Fresno State in seven years.

Freshman Drowning During Fraternity Event, Idaho

University of Idaho freshman Preston W. Vorhauer, of Kamiah, a talented musician and avid outdoorsman, drowned on September 1, 2012, in Dworshak Reservoir.  Preston, a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity pledge, was reportedly with senior members of the fraternity in a 150-yard swim to an island.  Before reaching the island, Preston yelled that he was turning back.  Two fraternity members tried to keep Preston afloat but he slipped under.  His body was recovered after a three hour search.

“Delayed Rush to Judgment”

Two weeks ago, Philip Dhanens and 1100 fellow first-year students and their parents enjoyed traditional welcoming ceremonies at Fresno State University.  Upperclassmen and staff assisted with move-ins into housing.  The school’s food service people threw a big barbecue.  And the fraternity Theta Chi began courting the new freshman males, hoping to attact members with their own members’ good looks, nice guy rep and parties.  Those were really all the chapter had going for it, according to one national Greek rating service.

Penn State Athletic Officials Step Down Amid Allegations of Sexual Abuse

Two top Penn State athletic deparment officials, including the athletic director, stepped down facing charges related to sexual abuse of at least eight boys over fifteen years at Penn State athletic facilities.  PSU’s former defensive coordinator is accused of abusing boys participating in a program for at-risk kids, and the athletic department officials are accused of failing to report their investigation of the allegations.

Feds: CA School Failed to Protect Gay Teen

A Central California school district did not adequately investigate or respond to complaints of bullying endured by 13-year-old, Seth Walsh, who later committed suicide after being harassed by classmates because he was gay, said federal officials. Government officials launched an investigation based on a civil-rights complaint filed by Seth’s mother, Wendy Walsh.

Suit Filed in Cornell Case, New York

Marie Lourdes André, the mother of deceased Cornell University student George Desdunes, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Kings County, New York, against Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (“SAE”), its officers and members (case no. 500460/2011).  The suit seeks to hold SAE, its chapter officers and members responsible for his death by hazing as that term is defined generally, under the laws of the State of New York, and the Guidebook of Rights, Responsibilities, Requirements and Resources (the “Guidebook”) of Cornell University.  For the full press release, click here.