N.Y. death under investigation for possible link to hazing at Penn State-Altoona fraternity

lfalce@centredaily.comMarch 20, 2014 

A Penn State Altoona fraternity has been suspended amid hazing allegations that may be connected to the suicide of one of its members.

Marquise Braham, 18, jumped from a hotel building on Long Island in New York during spring break, police said.

A criminal investigation is being conducted by Logan Township police.

“This young man committed suicide Friday in New York,” said Police Chief Ron Heller. “We have allegations of hazing, possible drug use and alcohol use. We are looking to see any connection between the allegations and the young man’s death.”

Hazing is a crime in Pennsylvania. Heller said his office is working with the Blair County District Attorney’s Office to decide how to proceed.

A campus spokesperson confirmed Thursday that Phi Kappa Sigma is under investigation for the incident.

“They have been put on suspension for allegations of violation of student conduct,” said Marissa Carney, media relations coordinator.

She could not confirm the specifics of the incident because of privacy issues. Carney was, however, able to confirm that Braham was a freshman at the campus.

“We are taking all allegations seriously,” she said.

Phi Kappa Sigma national Executive Vice President Michael Carey offered the following statement: “We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to Marquise’s family, friends and all those affected by this tragedy. We share in your sadness. We have advised local members to cooperate with the campus investigation and provide as much information as they can. In addition, we are conducting our own investigation of the chapter.”

The national organization has also suspended the chapter pending the outcome of that investigation. According to the group’s “New Member Education Manual,” available on its website, the fraternity “expressly forbids hazing,” calling it detrimental to fraternity goals.

That has not stopped individual chapters from participating in the practice in recent years. At least four other chapters have been suspended, either by the national chapter or individual universities, for hazing activities.

West Virginia University suspended its chapter for three years after a November 2010 hazing incident. Cornell University placed its chapter on one year of disciplinary probation after an April 2012 hearing for hazing, then followed that up a few months later by pulling university recognition for a year for an alcohol violation.

Vanderbilt suspended the fraternity in the 2009-10 academic year for continued violations and said it is eligible to return to the university in 2015. The University of Delaware suspended its chapter until spring 2018 for hazing policy violations.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.

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