Message From The President - Baruch College image
December 18, 2013
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
With final exams underway and the holiday break upon us, I want to update you regarding the tragic death of Baruch student Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng and how the College is responding. Because of an unsanctioned pledging activity over the weekend of December 7 that violated the College’s stated anti-hazing policy, one of the youngest members of the Baruch community has been taken from us. Michael was a talented freshman from Oakland Gardens, Queens, who was studying finance. He came to us from the Bronx High School of Science, where, by all accounts, he invested time and energy in extracurricular activities and school spirit in general. That attitude continued as he entered Baruch College: he was living in our residence hall on 3rd Avenue, and he was looking to join the Pi Delta Psi fraternity, which had declared its dedication to “four pillars: Academic Achievement, Cultural Awareness, Righteousness, and Friendship/Loyalty.”
Unfortunately, Michael’s faith in his fraternity’s goals and its leadership was betrayed when he was exposed to an illegal and unsanctioned hazing ritual. The fraternity did not request permission (as required), nor were they approved to have a pledge class, let alone a “crossing” ritual. Baruch College has a very clear, zero tolerance policy on hazing under which all student organizations operate. In fact, we have set high standards by requiring anti-hazing training and a signed anti-hazing agreement from the top officers of all Greek letter organizations. It is important to know that Baruch has an anti-hazing agreement from the officers of Pi Delta Psi that was signed in September of this year—sadly, a signed agreement they chose to ignore with tragic consequences.
As a result, Baruch College has instituted a lifetime ban of Pi Delta Psi. Along with our own internal review, Baruch is also cooperating fully with law enforcement as this matter is investigated. As part of our review and the student judicial process, the College is interviewing all Baruch members of the fraternity and any Baruch student who attended the event in the Poconos. But we are committed to getting this right through a deliberate process. Unfortunately, some students have so far refused to cooperate with our review and that of law enforcement; so it may take additional time to ensure that our process is accurate and fair. Because we are committed to zero tolerance for hazing, this implies potentially severe consequences that should only be applied when we are certain that they are appropriate.
Greek life has not historically been a major part of student culture at Baruch. The College has 233 students in fraternities or sororities, which represents only 1.3% of the 17,500 students on campus. Even with formal anti-hazing rules, policies and mandatory training for fraternities and sororities already in place, Michael’s death and the alleged neglect of the Pi Delta Psi members is causing us to review our current procedures and to consider additional measures that we might need to put in place. College officials have also been meeting individually with officers of other fraternities and sororities on campus to remind them of their obligations to ensure the safety and well-being of their members.
Baruch continues to cooperate fully with the ongoing criminal investigation by the Monroe County, PA police and DA, while giving attention and support to Michael’s family and his friends. In this regard, I encourage students to reach out to the Baruch College Counseling Center at 646-312-2155 or visit the website to make an appointment.
I know I speak for everyone in the Baruch College community when I say that we are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of a promising young student. Michael will be in our hearts as we look toward the new year with our characteristic Baruch College optimism.
Mitchel B. Wallerstein
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