Hazy, Crazy, Deadly Days of College Fraternity Life


December 14, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013


Hazing is too well, hazy a word. Call it what it really is-torture and abuse.

I don’t wish to pile on. I do wish though that somehow, someway, the young life of Mike Deng, age 19, could have been saved. The first year student at Baruch College in New York recently died as a result of “blunt force trauma” to his brain. This trauma was caused by repeated blows to his head by fellow fraternity “brothers” who had just prior pledged to be his brother and friend for “life.”

Mike, like his fellow fraternity pledges to Pi Delta Psi before him, was taking part in a hazing “ritual” called running the “Gauntlet.” Apparently inspired by actual street gangs, the pledge is blindfolded, given a backpack filled with sand to carry, and is told he must run towards his “big brother”. Naked. In the freezing dark. With about 15 fellow “brothers” who are lined up along this gauntlet waiting to punch, kick and tackle the pledge to prevent him from ever getting to his big brother.

Congratulations boys. Mike never made it to his big brother. Nor did he make it out of the freezing dark alive.

Want more brotherly love? The cops say that Mike lay unconscious for nearly 2 hours before he was able to receive any medical attention. His fraternity brothers, including the fraternity “pledge educator” then engaged in a series of lies to try and cover up what actually happened. Of course they did. The initial lie was young Mike was wrestling in the snow and um, hit his head on something, yeah, that’s what happened officer.

When this particular fraternal order of liars finally came clean it was anything but. The cops found drugs, hallucinogenic mushrooms, enough alcohol to float a cruise ship and paddles for you know, proper education of those feisty pledges.

Lately, we are hearing way too much about the not-so-secret life of fraternities. A recent controversial Rolling Stone article penned by Dartmouth fraternity boy Andrew Lohse enlightens us on fraternity life “pleasantries” like kiddie pools filled with urine and other bodily fluids and dares young men make to prove their manhood, by consuming things like “vomlets” (you don’t want to know, but you can probably guess).

frat drinking

A grain alcohol shower after a tough day of paddling.

Is it just fraternity boys being boys? No. Girls, who we often think should and do know better are frequently engaging in similar, booze-fueled lunacy. Ravital Segal, a former sorority pledge at Dartmouth’s Kappa Kappa Gamma tells how she was blind-folded (notice a pattern?) and “forced” to consume grain alcohol punch from a 64 ounce water bottle. Ms. Segal was one of the fortunate ones. She woke up in a hospital and was told she had .399 blood alcohol content. Point four (.4) equals coma and death. She was as she puts it “one more sip away from death.” Mike would have happily traded places.

sorroity hazing

In the name of sisterhood I guess I’ll risk my own life.

Look, I said my intent wasn’t to pile on. It still is not. I have been an educator for over 15 years. My current and former students can attest that I often try and point out some of the positives of campus “Greek Life.” Many bring a sense of camaraderie and organized spirit to their schools. And many charities know no better friend than those of their “greek” brothers and sisters. And, as many greeks will also attest, future employers like that line on the resume that shows the applicant was part of something “greater than just themselves.” And the built-in professional network that comes with the whole fraternity/sorority life after graduation is nearly as impressive as its members boast.

It’s just not worth dying for, is it?

Why do our kids still subject themselves to what is literally, abuse and torture, both emotional and physical? And pay membership dues for the privilege?

Acceptance. Being part of a tribe called a fraternity or a sorority. Memories they’ll later recall with fondness and pride, I guess. Hey, I made it. I survived.

It’s just that not all survive, do they?

So, let’s all get more serious about saving the lives of our young men and women. Please, let’s not call it “hazing.” It’s abuse. It’s sanctioned torture. It’s a criminal act. What it is, is most certainly not brotherhood. Or sisterhood. That real loving bond isn’t found in a series of kicks, punches and tackles in the freezing dark blindfolded. Nor is it found at the bottom of a shot glass or a water bottle filled with booze.

Real brothers and sisters look out for each other. For life.

mike deng

How many more Mike Deng’s until we ban all “hazing” and mean it?

May the young soul of Mike Deng now find in heaven what he was looking for here on earth.






17 thoughts on “Hazy, Crazy, Deadly Days of College Fraternity Life

  1. Mara Lencina says:

    I will never understood why anyone would want to “belong” so badly to a fake family that they would subject themselves to abuse, emotional and physical pain and suffering that could and has cost several their own life? What a waste. I hope they finally find in death what I guess was missing in their own life.

  2. Bethany Sims says:

    I was going to pledge a sorority then I started to hear the idiotic things that went on during and after rush with sister-pledges. So many smart girls doing so many stupid things. I’ll make my own friends thank you without the abuse.

  3. Taranesha says:

    Wow! This is horrible. My first semester I encountered a sorority who was (in the nicest way possible) rude and cocky. It’s funny because that’s the sorority I wanted to join. Seeing that hazing still goes on is mind boggling. There’s a reason why it was banned in the first place and if these Greeks don’t calm down they are all going to make a name for themselves where others don’t want to join. I feel so bad for Mike’s family. Of course they wanted him to have the ultimate “college experience” but I’m sure that they wouldn’t have funded his membership if they knew the cruel and outrageous things that he would have to endure.There are organizations that you can be a member of without going through hazing and I encourage people to get out and be informed of what you’re getting yourself into.

  4. Kirshana C says:

    I am trying to figure out why the fraternities/sororities would want to cause emotional and physical harm to people who look up to them and want to become part of the brother/sisterhood. I want to join a sorority but I do not want to harm myself just to pay money to become part a “sisterhood that lasts forever.” Yes I can understand people wanting to say, “hey I made it through it all and became a part of a frat or sorority,” but what about the Ravitals or Mikes who do not make it. What about when one is telling the stories of what they went through to their children? I think there are pretty good reason for hazing to be banned. Those particular rules should be followed just to avoid things like people ending up in the hospital or even worse, in the grave.

  5. David P says:

    I feel that the whole system of fraternities and sororitites is a way to turn more people into slaves of society. They dangle the so called oppurtunity of brother and sisterhood and acceptance in front of these kids and at that point the pledge feels that they have no choice but to do these outrageous and stupid tasks in order to fit in. But the truth is who wants or needs friends that are going to make them do these dangerous “tests” to prove their loyalty? That’s not friendship or brotherhood. Brothers and friends lift each other up and are there for each other even in the lowest times of their lives.

  6. Kiarra M says:

    My father pledged and he said the things that they were made to do in the 90’s were far less as cruel as they are today. But I think that the whole hazing situation has taken a turn for the worse. When the term brothers, sisters, and families, are brought into the subject for fraternities and sororities. Yes siblings do mean and cruel things to each other but there’s a limit to what is being done and how far you let it go. Personally I believe if you place yourself in a situation you know when enough is enough and when to say no. If you know and your gut is telling you maybe this isn’t a good idea, then maybe you should just simply tell your “big brother/sister” no, and walk away from the situation. I honestly want to join a sorority but if I know a task they want me to do will harm me physically, or cause me to break the law then I’m going to opt out and say no. I agree with what Kirshana C. said. Rules should be followed but as for the hazing it shouldn’t get to the point where someone is placing their life on the line.

  7. Carter Bragg says:

    Not to sound crude, but I believe that the kids that are willing to do anything to be accepted need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they want to be apart of something so badly. The kids are not physically being forced to do these things, they are falling under peer pressure. Though the ‘head brothers’ or whatever they may be called are in the wrong, I believe that people should know when to stand up for themselves and say enough is enough. I feel terrible for these young adults that have passed. I believe that the fraternities should be punished to the max. I just wish that those young adults knew their limitations and I guess to put it in very harsh terms, stood up for themselves.

  8. Amber G says:

    Yes, being in a sorority is a great title in some cases, but being hazed is totally not worth it. Some may think that you will do anything just so you can earn that “special title”. We should be able to join something without harassment or bullying.

  9. Christopher H says:

    Being in a Fraternity is a wonderful privilege. It has many benefits that most people who don’t have. Hazing to join a fraternity is dangerous and unnecessary. Abusing someone to let them join your brotherhood is very sad especially when that person dies.

  10. K. Denise S says:

    Since entering college, I have gone back and forth with my opinions of both sororities and fraternities. I see the benefits of being involved in Greek life. I understand the social benefits and opportunities that paying the dues allows you. I have a number of friends involved in Greek life who have absolutely loved every bit of the experience. However, I have decided for myself that I do not want to pay for my friendships. I guess I just do not need to belong that badly. Reading this article, I was not at any point surprised at what happened. Walking around campus and sitting around bonfires with my at-home friends, I hear all about the “hazing” nightmares that unfold. There are probably countless other stories just like this one. It sickens me that people enjoy torturing others to this extent. The fact that his almost fraternity brothers did not even have the decency to call for help immediately or tell the truth about what happened is revolting.

  11. SHERREA W says:

    This is very sad that these incidents are occurring throughout colleges in the United States. However, I feel that its partially the victims fault for even trying to join a frat or sorority that would put their life in danger . I feel that colleges administrators should set up guidelines for Greeks to meet , but I also feel that hazing will always occur.

  12. Julie A. says:

    I pledged a women’s fraternity in the late 1980’s. I’m proud to say that I was never hazed, I never hazed another member and our chapter loved and respected all our members. It is unfortunate that many of the groups today have forgotten the reason they were formed and the values they were built upon. I am sickened every time I hear about these situations. The culture that exists that promotes torturing and endangering the lives of others has to be addressed. It is more than making members sit in meetings to discuss their behavior, they need to change it. Easier said than done. If necessary, they should not be allowed to exist on a college campus. Again, the underlying cause of this behavior is the need to feel accepted. I would never have become a part of an organization that tolerated this kind of behavior. So for me the blame for these situations lies not only with the organizations themselves, but also the individuals who think they need to participate in such activities just to be accepted. Have enough self-esteem to avoid any group or individual who would treat you as less than their equal.

  13. Kenneth L R S says:

    As a member of a greek organization Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America(Social Music fraternity). I can personally attest to the fact that while my chapter did not and does not haze, There was and has been some chapters that did do such things and they were severely punished by the national fraternity. Which has a ZERO tolerance policy when it comes to this. I know the mentality that goes behind these acts they build brotherhood or sisterhood all(pledges) who make it through have been through an challenge and made it together. It is also said that it builds brotherhood or sisterhood with the pledges and the brothers or sisters of the fraternity or sorority who have been through the same or similar challenges. I don’t agree with nor condone such actions or activities. Because as the author of the blog even though I love my fraternity, I highly seriously doubt I would die for it, and I’m one who truly loves and will do anything I can do for my fraternity I can. The fraternities and sororities that commit such activites give all greek organizations a bad name,when there can be some real pro’s to being apart of such organization.

  14. Cassidy C says:

    Hazing is something that I personally will never understand. To think that a parent sends their child off to go to college, to better their education, and they end up dead is heart wrenching. In my opinion, I think that these types of fraternities/sororities should be shut down. No university should allow it. Period. If the university knows that there are fraternities/sororities that engage in illegal activity, they need to put a stop to it. I know that sometimes it’s not that easy, but something needs to be done. Is wanting to be a part of a group or wanting to have true friends a problem? No. The problem is wanting to be accepted so bad that you will put your life in danger to make it happen, sometimes costing your life. When will it stop?

  15. Casey Holcom says:

    I just don’t understand the point in hazing, or greek life in general. I don’t want to pay for my friends, but I certainly don’t want to go through a grueling process to obtain them which will likely disgust me and hurt me.

  16. Massi M says:

    There is no question that fraternities and sororities build character for many of its pledges, and their service and voluntarism send a strong message of their commitment to the community. Yet, years of document evidence that hazing (or abuse) in colleges and universities have tainted the good deeds of the majority. Mike Deng, 19 years old, was looking for acceptance and an opportunity to be part of a brotherhood with life lasting benefits. Instead the people he trusted abused him and push him pass his physical limits. Of course, had he survived we must lively would not be discussing hazing until the next young person succumb to physical injures but just as domestic abuse is once again a popular topic, young adults (18-24 years) must be constantly reminded of the life altering consequences of participating in hazing. I can only image how the lives of each participant was changes after the police discredited their story, found drugs and alcohol (must likely charged), and publicly informed the school of the finds (means people were expelled). What really disturb me though is “blunt force trauma to the head”, leaving him lying in the cold for hours as they attempting to cover up the incident, and the school claim of ignorance?
    Although I never pledged because of this kind of violent hazing and don’t plain to as an adult (graduate chapter), I have friends who did pledge and would not mine their children doing the same but as active members are still concerned with unsanctioned lines and violation of the hazing policies issued my most schools to their chapters. My children a few years to go before college but one is already participating in some of the sorority programs for sisterhood. Without question, we are teaching our children the good and bad associated with fraternities and sororities and hope when that day comes that they make good decisions because like Mike Deng everybody don’t survive the emotional and physical torture of hazing.

  17. Luke E says:

    I really hate to hear these stories. I am a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Sigma Chi helped make my college experience what it was. It also helped forge me into the man that I am today. For that I am grateful. I’m also grateful after reading stories like this that I wasn’t hazed. Personally, I have never understood hazing. To that point, I understand it’s origins; however, I don’t understand how bludgeoning or force drinking someone into a comma resembles the bonds of brotherhood. From what I understand, hazing began after the civil war. The fact that some people went through war before or during college made them want their future members to “earn” their membership. I find it truly unfortunate that hazing continues today, especially when National fraternity leaders are trying to curb these activities. Sigma Chi hosts an annual leadership workshop, the Balfour Leadership Training Workshop. My first workshop I heard how a chapter’s president lost his sibling and little brother in the fraternity. They made the kid drink and he died. The remorse, loss, and contrition of this man was incredible. I would certainly hope that everyone in attendance learned something that day. The actual act of blindfolding someone in the Sigma Chi fraternity is actually considering hazing. There are some fraternal organizations that have a huge problem with hazing. It is my hope that hazing will be eradicated from all organizations. If we can take this away the benefits of being Greek will be able to shine through. It’s incredible to think that each chapter of a fraternity is technically a non-profit organization being operated by 18-23 year olds. I wish the victims of hazing peace. Furthermore, hazing isn’t brotherhood.

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