This school year has included a number of hazing injuries and deaths across the country – in both the K12 schools and on college campuses.
After the recent alleged hazing death of University of Buffalo (UB) student & Sigma Pi pledge, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan, School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group attorney, Douglas Fierberg, was interviewed for The Buffalo News article regarding his expertise in hazing tragedies.
Unlike the old days when a “Frat Mom” ran the show, most fraternity houses operating today lack adult supervision and instead rely on a management structure that leaves 20- and 21-year-olds in charge, Fierberg said.
“Time and time again, that management structure has failed,” he said. “It’s deadly.”
When are fraternities going to take the lead and implement steps required to make their operations and chapters safe?
Sadly, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan’s death is not the first incident where a student has died or faced harm at a Sigma Pi fraternity in the past six months.
This past November, freshman Collin Wiant died at Ohio University’s Sigma Pi house after ingesting nitrous oxide – a couple of weeks prior to Wiant’s death, the Sigma Pi chapter at the University of Colorado, Boulder ceased operations after young women claimed they were drugged at the house.
The University at Buffalo has suspended all fraternities and sororities and is investigating a “potential” hazing incident at the Sigma Pi fraternity house that has left a student in critical condition.
An 18-year-old student, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan, ended up in critical condition at an area hospital after going into cardiac arrest.
The national Sigma Pi Fraternity has now been involved in three incidents in the past six months……including the death of Ohio University student, Collin Wiant, after an alleged hazing incident.
The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law just obtained legal finding of liability against the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc. and its former national director, Andy Meng, for the 2013 hazing death of Baruch College student, Michael Deng.
This is a loss for the national fraternity and a win for the cause.
“According to statistics from Child USA, the majority of child sexual abuse victims do not choose to disclose, if they do at all, until the average age of 52.”
For reasons like this, New York passes the Child Victims Act – extending the statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse – in civil and criminal cases. Victims now have until the age of 55 to bring claims in civil cases, and can seek criminal prosecution up until the age of 28.
Alcohol-related deaths at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapters across the country have been going on for years.
Incidents include, but unfortunately, not limited to:
The 2006 alleged alcohol-related hazing death of University of Texas freshman & SAE pledge, Tyler Cross, who fell to his death from the fifth-floor balcony of his off-campus dorm. Allegedly, in the days before Tyler’s death, he was subjected to hazing rituals that included beatings, forced consumption of alcohol and sleep deprivation.
The 2008 alcohol poisoning death of Cal Poly freshman and pledge, Carson Starkey, who died only hours after attending a “brown bag” event. Allegedly, when Carson passed out, fraternity members drove him to the hospital but turned around for fear of being arrested. Brothers then placed Carson on a mattress at the house, where he died. Police officials said that the death was the result of the crime of hazing while Carson was being initiated into Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent The Starkeys not only in their civil lawsuit but also in their pursuit to bring attention to the dangers of hazing and prevent other families from suffering as they did.
The 2009 alcohol poisoning death of University of Kansas freshman Jason Wren, who was found dead in his bed at the SAE house after a night of alleged binge drinking. Jason had only been with the fraternity for one week.
The 2011 hazing death of Cornell University student, George Desdunes, who was allegedly kidnapped and bound at his wrists and ankles with zip ties by SAE pledges as part of a longstanding fraternity ritual and compelled to consume alcohol until he lost consciousness. Instead of medical treatment, George was taken to the fraternity house and placed on a couch where he was left to die. He was found later that morning by Cornell personnel, with zip ties still around his wrists and ankles. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent George’s Mother, Marie Lourdes André, both in her civil lawsuit and in her efforts to obtain justice for George’s death by changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing.
This conduct should not, and will not, be tolerated.
School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group seek justice for victims of fraternity hazing and wrongful death by holding fraternities, fraternity chapters, fraternity members and schools accountable for their actions. Our work continues, on behalf and in honor of the first family we represented (circa 1993) and for every one thereafter. We know this to be true.
On September 26, 2018, Cornell University permanently honored the life of George Desdunes by unveiling a plaque prominently placed at entrance of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life. This remembrance of George serves as a constant reminder to everyone involved in Greek affairs of the tragic death of George on February 25, 2011, as a result of hazing ritual by pledges and members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Following her son’s death, Marie André created groundbreaking law in New York that clearly establishes the principle that national fraternities can be held civilly liable for the wrongdoing of their members. SAE sought to dismiss the lawsuit against it and was unsuccessful. The opinion by the Supreme Court of New York will certainly help other families hold national fraternities responsible for the death and injury caused by their failure to prevent their chapters and members from engaging in hazing, sexual violence, binge drinking, and other misconduct.
Marie was also the force behind fundamental changes in fraternity management by Cornell University. In doing so, Cornell took the unprecedented steps to publish the history of hazing violations by fraternities and other campus groups, accurately warning parents and students in detail of the risks associated with fraternities. (See hazing.cornell.edu) This reporting by Cornell is one of the highest standards of transparency in the country. It is also worth noting that Cornell’s former Senior Associate Dean of Students, Travis Apgar, whose office was responsible for fraternities at the time of George’s death and during a span of years when SAE was regularly hazing students and operating unsafely without consequence, is no longer employed by Cornell.
By holding accountable those responsible, both the individuals and the national fraternity, Marie obtained justice for the tragic and senseless death of her son, George. In changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing, and by the placement of a plaque in George’s honor and remembrance, Marie has effectively prevented others from enduring the same hardships she will forever suffer.
The Pi Delta Psi brothers present the night our client lost his life in a violent fraternity hazing ritual face a range of criminal charges including assault, hindering apprehension, and hazing.
School Violence Law represents the family of Michael Deng in its pursuit of civil justice in his behalf.
As reported previously, 37 members of an Asian-American cultural fraternity – Pi Delta Psi at Baruch College in Manhattan – were arrested December 2013 after Michael Deng died of head injuries sustained during a brutal hazing ritual known as “the glass ceiling.”
Ka-Wing Yuen is the first of the Pi Delta Psi defendants to stand trial. He plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to hinder apprehension by evidence tampering, and conspiracy to commit hazing Tuesday in Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
Yuen will be sentenced January 23 and could received several months in prison.
Five of the remaining 36 defendants face third-degree murder charges.
Click here and here to review our previous coverage on the events that transpired that fatal night.
Our clients have traveled a path that may be similar to the one you are currently traveling. Many clients have become strong advocates and have valuable insights they are willing to share, including our work. Please feel free to inquire, and when appropriate, we will gladly connect you to them, as they too are committed to offering their help and unique insight.