Prosecutors are cracking down on national fraternities whose regional chapters commit brutal hazing rituals that lead to serious injury or fatality. In a recent New York Times article, the issue was brought to national attention through the tragic story of one young man’s death and the criminal charges that have followed nearly two years later. Charges not only pointed at five men, but also the involved fraternity: Pi Delta Psi.
In the article, Attorney David W. Bianchi weighed in on what the future holds for fraternities who condone hazing. “This may actually send a message to the fraternities that they need to do more.”
The case in question involved the death of a young man in 2013. Chun Hsien Deng had been one step away from joining Pi Delta Psi. As he ran through the snow, trying to reach the other end of the yard where he would be appointed as a member of the fraternity, he was tackled by “his future brothers” and knocked unconscious.
He would never wake up again.
Unfortunately, this story is not as rare as one would hope. In the last 10 years, at least 40 students have been killed due to unsafe hazing rituals. In fact, every year since 1971 has seen the death of a student through a fraternity hazing. Prosecutors have had enough. Some justice has been obtained through the conviction of fraternity members who cause fatalities or injuries, but these convictions have not been enough of a deterrent to stop the deadly traditions from reoccurring.
For this reason, prosecutors are starting to be make stronger cases against fraternal institutions.
“It is hard to believe that in this day and age college students are still being seriously injured or killed in fraternity related hazing activities,” said Attorney Bianchi. “With all of the attention having been brought to this crisis by high profile cases in recent years one would think that hazing was a thing of the past but, unfortunately, the problem is as bad as ever. To date, the focus has been on the individuals involved but the new strategy of prosecuting the fraternities themselves may be the catalyst we need to change the behavior.”
This is just what happened in the case of Mr. Deng. The Pi Delta Psi fraternity was charged with aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, and hindering apprehension. Each of these charges could carry a fine of up to $25,000. This will hopefully be the wakeup call national fraternities need to get their chapters under control.
“If the national headquarters of the fraternities understand they may now be criminally prosecuted for the acts of their members they may try even harder to put a stop to the dangerous acts of hazing that have caused too many deaths and injuries,” continued Attorney Bianchi. “The fraternities need to be afraid; very afraid. They need to believe that if they don't get more serious about stopping the excessive drinking, the sleep deprivation, the physical assaults and the humiliating rituals of the past they may find themselves as defendants in a criminal case and be shut down for good and lose all of their assets. Only then may they finally put a stop to hazing before it starts.”
Mr. Bianchi obtained a $14 million verdict for the parents of a University of Miami fraternity pledge who drowned in a hazing incident. It is believed to be the largest fraternity hazing verdict in the country.