December 14, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013
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).
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.
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.
May the young soul of Mike Deng now find in heaven what he was looking for here on earth.