On Aug. 28, a football game at San Marcos Park between students from Cal Poly Pomona and students from the UC Irvine chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon resulted in the death of Kenny Luong, a 19-year-old Pomona student.
The UCI chapter of the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity has been placed on an emergency revocation of recognition, meaning that it is no longer recognized as a group on the UCI campus. It will stay this way pending a police investigation into the incident.
The president of the national board of Lambda Phi Epsilon has also placed the chapter on an emergency suspension pending investigation.
Luong, who was studying to be a civil engineer, was among a group of students working to start a chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon at their school.
The Lambda Phi Epsilon national board told the students that they had to pledge to the UCI chapter before being able to start their own chapter. The football game where Luong died was the final event in their nine-week pledging process.
Luong was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he died on Aug. 30. The case is still pending, but the Orange County Coroner’s Office has found no cause of death so far.
The UCI team had somewhere between 25 and 40 players, according to different sources. It was much larger than the team of pledges, which consisted of about nine people. The difference in size between the two teams has led police to investigate the event as a possible act of hazing.
Hazing is defined by the California Education Code as ‘any method of initiation or preinitiation into a student organization that can or does cause physical harm or personal disgrace.’ A violation is considered a misdemeanor, although acts of hazing resulting in death can be deemed as felonies.
Although hazing is widely outlawed by universities and puts students at risk of suspension, expulsion or possible jail time, it is still a common occurrence at college campuses across the country. In 2000, Hank Nuwer from Franklin College reported 46 hazing-related incidents in U.S. college fraternities, 10 in sororities and eight in collegiate sports.
Some people, including one member of another UCI fraternity who wished to remain unnamed, feel that the members of Lambda Phi Epsilon should be more harshly punished.
‘I was angry when I found out what happened,’ said the student. ‘They should be punished to the harshest degree. Someone died. That doesn’t just happen. The people in charge of this should be held responsible. The president and other leaders should be used as an example. This sort of thing is not OK.’
In the wake of Luong’s death, members of the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity have remained quiet about the event, refusing to comment to the media.
Sally Peterson, the dean of students at UCI, declined to comment on this particular event ‘until the evidence is in,’ but said that it is not unusual for fraternity members to remain tight-lipped after allegations of hazing.
‘In hazing, it’s hard to tell what really happened because there is no evidence and usually people won’t come forward,’ Peterson said. ‘People want to be part of a group so much that they are willing to endure and watch others endure hazing to belong.’
If this event is found to be part of a hazing ritual, Lambda Phi Epsilon will be banned from UCI permanently, and members of the fraternity may face criminal charges.
Peterson hopes that this incident will help Greek organizations and other clubs at UCI to realize that hazing is a serious problem. She also hopes that students in the future will feel more comfortable reporting such incidents.
Students who have any information about this or any other hazing incident are encouraged to contact the UCI Police Department at (949) 824-5223, or the Office of the Dean of Students at (949) 824-5590.