By Mark Hallum
Five years after the hazing death of Oakland Gardens student Michael Deng in 2013, the state Assembly has passed an anti-hazing bill to forbid members of fraternities from touching pledges during initiation ceremonies.
Deng was a student at Baruch College and on a fraternity trip with the now dissolved chapter of Pi Delta Psi in the Poconos when he died from injuries sustained during a hazing ritual known as the “glass ceiling.”
The national Asian fraternity, along with 37 of its members of this particular chapter have since been convicted in January of manslaughter, among other charges by a Pennsylvania judge.
“The best way for us to prevent hazing is to ensure that no student is ever put in a situation where their safety is in jeopardy,” state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), who sponsored the bill, said. “By prohibiting reckless physical conduct and physical activities during initiation ceremonies, we can protect students and other individuals from the substantial risks caused by hazing. There is no better way to honor the death of Michael Deng, one of my constituents, by ensuring that this will never happen to another student again.”
The bill is still being evaluated by the Senate Committee on Codes and is sponsored by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Mt. Sinai).
Deng was blindfolded and made to carry a heavy backpack loaded with dumbbells and other weights across frozen ground before being tackled and beaten in a hazing ritual known as the glass ceiling, according to the Monroe County, Pa. district attorney. The ritual damaged his head and torso. The events occurred during a retreat at a rented house in Tunkhannock Township, Pa.
Deng eventually lost consciousness and fraternity members were said by law enforcement officials and the court to have concealed evidence and did not seek medical attention for the 19-year-old until hours later.
The Pi Delta Psi chapter at Baruch was immediately and permanently banned from the Manhattan college, which also issued a suspension on all pledge activity for three years in 2014 and extended the moratorium until 2021, according to school spokeswoman Suzanne Bronski.
A number of the members were sentenced to seven years probation on top of time already served.
Andy Meng, the younger brother of U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and the former head of the national fraternity, was one of the members charged. Meng faces lesser felony charges of hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, the Monroe County, Pa., district attorney said.
According to police officials, Meng was called by fraternity members when Deng lost consciousness and advised them to hide items with fraternity logos, disguise all signs of hazing and remove Deng’s clothing.
Meng pleaded guilty Nov. 29 to the charges and was sentenced to 36 months’ probation, a DA spokesman said.
The frat, as a corporation, was sentenced to fines of $112,500 and was barred from conducting any business in Pennsylvania during a 10-year probation. The frat was also required to report its conviction within 60 days to universities where it has chapters.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall