Deng, a native of Queens, was one of four pledges who were just hours away from being named brothers in the national Asian-American cultural fraternity Pi Delta Psi when he was knocked unconscious during a hazing ritual known as the “Glass Ceiling.”
The incident occurred during a retreat at a private residence on Candlewood Drive in the Tunkhannock Township of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where it was reported that 30 brothers were gathered to initiate the four new members, according to reports from the Pocono Mountain Regional Police.
Chief Harry Lewis of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police reported that as part of the ritual, Deng was forced to wear a backpack filled with sand and put on a blindfold while passing through a gauntlet of tacklers as he tried to locate a person who was calling out his name.
While he was participating, Michael was knocked down and hit his head, at which point he became unresponsive.
After more than an hour, during which time some members reportedly left the scene while others Googled his symptoms and changed his clothes, Michael was brought to the nearest hospital where he later died.
Kimberly Butts of the Monroe County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney’s office, will be handling the matter moving forward, and it appears that criminal charges are on their way.
After their initial investigation, the Pocono Mountain Police found what they believe to be marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms at the residence, according to the Pocono Record.
Both Baruch College and the national board of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity have issued statements referring to the activities as “unsanctioned,” distancing themselves from the tragic events.
“Until news of the tragic incident was conveyed to us by the president of the national fraternity Pi Delta Psi, Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class,” read a letter from Baruch College president Mitchel Wallerstein. “Pi Delta Psi did not request permission, nor were they approved, by Baruch on this matter.”
On december 12, Pi Delta Psi’s National Executive President Andy Meng said as a result of the incident, the fraternity would be suspending all new member education nationwide.
Four days later, Meng released another statement denouncing the Baruch chapter of Pi Delta Psi and all who were involved in the hazing.
“Baruch Colony has violated the values and rules of our organization, including our strict no hazing policy,” wrote Meng. “As such, they shall no longer be recognized as having any association with Pi Delta Psi. Additionally, we will also revoke the individual memberships of any member found involved in this incident.”
Attempts to reach the former president and treasurer of the Baruch Chapter were unsuccessful, and other members of the organization were advised not to speak to anyone without a lawyer present.