Hazing News

Enough is enough. Pi Delta Psi Has Some Explaining to Do



By Hank Nuwer


Journalists rarely get angry. But once in a while they get outraged. I am outraged, but close to being angry. Why can’t certain individuals get it? A human body can only take so much punishment. Smash them on the ground, throw in a fist and elbow, and you can kill a healthy young male. Simple enough?


No, I guess not. For a young man at Baruch College is dead.


Back in the early days of collegiate football, deaths piled up. The only rule was score, and the teams used the flying wedge, flying elbows, and exposed faces and heads of their opponents to win games with brutal strength, not finesse.


Many players died. The game of football was in jeopardy.


President Theodore Roosevelt came close to an executive order banning football if the game couldn’t clean itself up.


Of course, football being a physical sport, not all deaths could be prevented.


But the almost 100 percent certainty a death might occur was averted.  Because one man, President Teddy, shook his Big Stick.


So now the fraternity deaths have sent a message.


–J. B. Joynt, ill and fatigued by pledging, died after a pile-up fraternity game at Frostburg State in Maryland.


–Harrison Kowiak, a promising golfer, died in a Theta Chi chapter night “game” at Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina.


–Kenny Luong, a pledge for the University of California’s Lambda Phi Alpha chapter, died in a mock football game that was nothing more than a planned pile-on event.


And now we add, in December 2013, the pummeling death of Chun Hsien “Mike” Deng at Baruch College for a 20-year-old national Asian fraternity Pi Delta Psi.


They, typically, delayed and filibustered before rushing Mike to a hospital when they saw him, not just down, but dying.


Thirty males were present when the event occurred, according to press reports.


Thirty males need to be charged. Police and the courts and local prosecutor must examine evidence carefully to see if 30 males need to do hard time and if alums of this shamed chapter had any knowledge this hazing ritual was continuing. Alums of fatal-death chapters have skated way too long. Nail them.


The national fraternity, ignoring all requests for comment, may need to be shut down and sued out of existence if culpability can be found. Governance seems totally lacking in Pi Delta Psi.


Yes, I am outraged. But if I were Mike’s parents, I’d be sad and angry. Here is how the father and siblings of Chad Meredith felt after losing him in a similar stupid “athletic” contest for Kappa Sigma at the University of Miami. His story is here, done by my students:


Here is Lianne Kowiak, mother of Harrison Kowiak, describing what it is like to lose a wonderful son like Mike.

And George Starks, whose son died in a stupid sorority-fraternity ritual at Utah State, wants schools like Baruch College to be put under the microscope.

Here is what Mr. Starks wrote me yesterday: “One would hope, however, that actual laws and violations thereof were actually conceded and prosecuted to the maximum extent. Lawsuits against fraternities are in abundance – both successful and unsuccessful. A successful major lawsuit against a tacitly-approving college administration would add a concrete reality to schools heretofore content to let corporate Greek associations take the hit. Distancing has become an art. Absolution and a thorough erasing of fingerprints continue to allow knowing school administrations to plead and, equally-importantly, feign ignorance. This must change.”

Every possible investigation into Baruch College’s record of discipline on Pi Delta Psi needs to be examined. Who knew what and when at Baruch? Did Baruch College know it had a ticking time bomb on its hands?

Those are the questions journalists NEED to ask. So far, they have not.






By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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