ALTOONA, Pa. — The family of a Penn State-Altoona student who jumped to his death off the roof of a New York hotel sued the university and a suspended fraternity alleging that he killed himself because of hazing.
The suit alleges that Marquise Braham “had been hazed for months” by members of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity before he died in March 2014.
A Penn State spokeswoman declined comment, citing the pending litigation, but officials said the chapter was suspended for six years following Braham’s death and is barred from using university facilities or participating in campus events.
The fraternity’s national organization in Indianapolis said officials hadn’t seen the results of law enforcement investigations, but the activities alleged in the lawsuit, if proven true, “are in direct violation of the fraternity’s standards and expectations as well as its express anti-hazing policies.” The national fraternity said it “continues to cooperate with all authorities associated with the investigation.”
The freshman was forced to “consume gross amounts of alcohol” and mouthwash, swallow live fish, and kill, gut and skin animals, the suit alleges. The suit also claims he was made to fight fellow pledges, was burned with candle wax, was deprived of sleep for 89 hours and had a gun held to his head as part of the hazing activities.
After he was accepted as a member of the fraternity, Braham had to be present for hazing the next class of pledges, and later texted a friend that some of the hazing activities were “hard to watch,” the suit said.
“He struggled deeply with having to witness and participate in the hazing of others,” and he killed himself the day before he was to return to the fraternity, the suit said.
University staff knew that he was “suffering physically, psychologically and academically” but disregarded the information, the suit alleges.
“In my family’s opinion, both Penn State and Phi Sigma Kappa severely damaged our son, both physically and mentally, with hazing activities and even worse, sought to allegedly cover it up by destroying evidence,” his father, Richard Braham, said in a statement.