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Baruch hazing death changes attitudes toward Greek life

Queens College’s Greek life faced a culture shift since Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng’s tragic death in the Baruch hazing incident during December 2013.

Deng’s death brought national attention to hazing. QC administration officials implemented guidelines and workshops to keep hazing under control.

All Greek students are required to participate in an anti-hazing program this November and sign an anti-hazing form. The form gives a definition of hazing, while prior forms did not include one despite asking students to sign it Judith Krinitz, assistant director of Student Life, said.

“Hazing doesn’t have to be physical. It can be emotional or mental,” Krinitz said.

QC, under the umbrella of CUNY, prompted more emphasis on student safety.

“We want to make sure that no one dies or gets injured ever, regardless of the affiliation,” Krinitz said. “It can be the Queens College ping pong club, which we don’t have, for example. No one should ever get hurt playing ping pong or going to a meeting or a conference because they are affiliated with a Queens College club.”

Greek students, aware of the situation, also “toned down” the Greek culture.

“We definitely did come together, not necessarily physically, as a mindset and said, ‘this is pretty serious,’” Josh Pinkhasov, senior and Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, said. “There’s a Facebook group for all the Greeks that only Greeks are allowed to be in and they definitely do bring up a lot of topics like this.”

CUNY recognized Greeks not as individual organizations, but under the Inter Greek Council, which became a “loophole” for Greeks to exist in CUNY, all Greek business are done through IGC.

“They don’t really monitor us because we’re technically under IGC, but, if the head hears of anything, they will inquire and crack down,” Pinkhasov said.

Baruch implemented a lifetime ban for the Pi Delta Psi fraternity and a three-year ban on all Greek rush and pledge activities, which raised concerns of partial punishment from the college’s organizations not tied to the incident.

“I would have to think that Baruch is studying this situation thoroughly,” Krinitz said. “I don’t know if that would solve the issue but give them some time to look into it.”

The Asian American Cultural fraternity was an unrecognized organization and conducted an unauthorized trip, leaving the college oblivious; although, Baruch was held responsible.

The fraternity took a trip to the Poconos and conducted the “glass ceiling” ritual where the pledges run across a lawn blindfolded carrying a 20 pound sand-filled bag and avoid brothers tackling him. The ritual, The New York Times reported, “symbolized their burden as Asian-Americans trying to break into the mainstream.”

Fraternities prefer it called tradition than hazing. For example, some African-American fraternities require their pledges to walk around with a cane. The cane represented a time during Jim Crow laws where African-American men carried around canes to protect themselves.

“Sometimes there’s a fine line between when an organization will call it a tradition verses hazing. Basically the organizations are trying to say, ‘Hey, this is where we once were. Here’s where we are now,’” Krinitz said.

Deng, on the other hand, was tackled multiple times and the treatment worsened after he resisted, which ultimately led to his fatal head injury.

“A lot depends on the interpretation of the situation,” Krinitz said.

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