Baruch College Freshman Dies After Fraternity "Ritual": Authorities

Thursday, Dec 12, 2013  |  Updated 5:15 AM EDT
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Chun Hsien

NBC 4 New York

Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng died after he was injured during a fraternity ritual on a trip to the Poconos, according to authorities. Greg Cergol reports

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A 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College died during a visit to the Poconos after taking part in a fraternity ritual where he was blindfolded, weighed down and knocked over repeatedly while trying to walk a path, authorities said.

Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng was brought unresponsive with head trauma to a hospital in the Poconos early Sunday, according to the Monroe County district attorney's office. He died Monday.

Detectives learned that Deng was injured "while partaking in a ritual" outside the Poconos home where he and 30 other members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity were staying for the weekend. Deng was one of four pledges on the trip. 

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Pledges had their eyes covered and were told they had to get from one point to another while wearing weighted bags and being pushed about, Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Harry Lewis told NBC News.

Deng was knocked unconscious in the ritual and was brought inside, Lewis said, but there was “a considerable delay” before fraternity brothers drove him to the hospital.

"It's very tragic," Lewis told NBC News.

The ritual bears resemblance to a hazing activity called “the gauntlet,” which was implicated in deaths at Florida A&M University in 2011 and Lenoir Rhyne University in North Carolina in 2008, NBC News reports.

Authorities say alcohol doesn’t appear to have been a major factor.

Baruch College said the trip was an "unsanctioned fraternity pledging event."

"Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class," the school said in a statement.

"Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy," the statement added.

The school said it has a zero tolerance policy on hazing and requires fraternities and sororities to attend training that includes anti-hazing discussion.

Baruch students were stunned to hear of Deng's death.

"To know that they go to this extreme pressure of being a part of something, and to actually harm their health, it's disgusting," said Anastasia Kachur.

No one has been arrested, but police are investigating.

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