Penn State freshman and Phi Sigma Kappa member, Marquise Braham jumped to his death, Friday March 14, 2014. The 18-year-old is believed to have committed suicide after enduring hazing practices at the Penn State fraternity.
Hazing is a practice commonly used by private organizations such as a fraternity as a form of initiation that often involves humiliation, pain, and dangerous activities. Braham reportedly was in Long Island for Spring break and had just left an off-campus fraternity house when he went to the roof of a Marriott hotel and committed suicide. It is believed the freshman was either being directly hazed or involved in the hazing of others at the time which caused emotional trauma, and ultimately his death. There have been reports of hazing, drug use and physical abuse at the fraternity prompting Penn State to suspend the local chapter.
Although the state of Pennsylvania does not have implicit hazing laws on the books if the hazing falls under any form of harassment those known to be involved can be charged with assault. There are four concurrent investigations going on in relation to Braham’s death; the fraternity hazing practices by the university, the national fraternity organization, and Pa. police, and death investigation by the Nassau County police. The father of the victim, an ABC News managing editor believes the fraternities hazing practices caused the death of his son and at the very least should be charged with aiding in his suicide which is a crime in Pa.
Days before taking his life Braham had been complaining to friends and family of the hazing practices and also sought counseling from a priest regarding his fraternity involvement. Braham was described as a kind, gentle and fun child who was raised with strong religious beliefs. In text messages found on his phone he shared with friends and relatives his reluctance to haze other students, fearing he did not have the courage to cause harm to another person. He furthered detailed in other messages some of the hazing practices at the fraternity involved drugs, sodomy with a foreign object and drinking to the point of vomiting. These messages were dated immediately prior to his suicide and were thought to be the subject of his meeting with his priest leading authorities to suspect hazing practices by the fraternity caused the young man’s death.
The freshman had pictures on his phone of a pledge blindfolded with a fake gun pointed at his head. During his own pledge Braham confessed he had to rob a store of a bag of chips wearing a ski mask. Although the investigation is still pending the Logan Township police chief stated the local chapter Phi Sigma Kappa is not cooperating and have retained counsel. The university in the meantime has offered counseling for their faculty and close-knit student body of almost 4,000 in the weeks ahead. Statistics reveal over 50% of college students experience hazing and almost none of those students report it. Unfortunately Penn State freshman Braham was another victim of hazing which may have caused his death.
By Debra Pittman