Friday, September 18, 2015

Purple Haze

When Chun Hsien Deng was graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, his yearbook photo caption said, “If people are doubting how far you’ll go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”

None of us can hear Deng anymore, because he was killed by fraternity brothers from Baruch College's Pi Delta Psi chapter during a hazing ritual.  Five young men from the frat are being charged with murder.

It was 2013 when Deng, 19, was beaten unconscious in a frozen field in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania.  Baruch College is on the east side of Manhattan, and is part of the City University of New York, a school named for philanthropist Bernard Baruch, who certainly never envisioned the lethal play of these students.  Who could have?  The school counts among its graduates people such as Jonas Salk and Upton Sinclair.

Pocono Mountain Regional Police are charging the five men responsible with third-degree murder. And, 30-some other participants will face trial for assault, conspiracy and hindering apprehension in connection. A grand jury investigated the entire horrifying incident for a year before handing up the charges. 

Deng was known as Michael.  He joined Pi Delta Psi and was on a retreat far from the campus, playing a game called "The Glass Ceiling."  Blindfolded and wearing a weighted backpack while making his way across a field, he was assaulted and tackled repeatedly by his fraternity "brothers."  At some point in the evening's "fun," Deng lost consciousness.  That'll happen when you are being beaten about the head and neck by a pack of frat boys. 

And as if knocking a man out is not a reason for some of these men to go to jail for a long time, this is:

The others did nothing about his condition for too long a time. Some ran off, as some people will. Some called a national Pi Delta Psi representative, one Andy Meng, who told them to hide fraternity items and marked clothing. And some went online to one of those doctor websites to diagnose Deng’s condition.  After a debate about how much it would cost to call an ambulance to transport and care for the still-unconscious victim, three students loaded him into a car and drove to a hospital, where they claimed Deng had passed out while playing in the snow.

Deng was suffering major head trauma in addition to bruises and contusions, and was placed on life support, succumbing the next day.  The coroner of Monroe County, Wayne Ross, told the local news that the delay in treatment contributed to Deng’s death. 

Of course it did.  And so did getting beaten on the head, which led to "multiple traumatic injuries," including "at least three clear impacts to the head" and a "massive bruise to the back … due to repeated blunt force impacts which resulted in traumatic asphyxia."   That's what the coroner said.  It's the fancy way of saying that the man was beaten to death and denied treatment for far too long a time.

The five facing murder charges are Charles Lai, Kenny Kwan, Raymond Lam, Daniel Li and Sheldon Wong.  

Hugh H. Mo, an attorney for one of the 37 students charged, said in a statement to NBC that the “across-the-board charges against all the young men in the house and outside in the backyard is not justified nor provable,” and added that 36 of the 37 students were “overcharged.”

Meanwhile, the national Pi Delta Psi organization has disbarred the chapter at Baruch, a commuter college with no frat houses, just an office that fraternities share in a classroom building. Meng said that this hazing trip was not a sanctioned frat activity "strictly prohibited by our organization." He is one of the people charged with hazing, hindering apprehension and criminal conspiracy, according to police.

Deng’s family, which has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pi Delta Psi, had this to say about the charges:  

"Too many families have been devastated as a result of fraternity hazing, with at least one student dying every year from hazing since 1970. Fraternities and their members must be held accountable, and this step by authorities is an important one."
We've all had experiences joining groups, and certain rituals go along with making a new person one of the gang.  Playful, harmless initiation stunts can actually build fellowship and brother/sisterhood.  Felonious assault leading to death should cause us to question why some people went to college in the first place, and how long they should spend in prison, in the second.

No comments: