The death of a 19-year-old Cal State Northridge student who collapsed while hiking barefoot in the Angeles National Forest was the result of fraternity hazing, and the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity has agreed to disband its chapter on the campus, the university’s president said Friday.
A criminal investigation into Armando Villa’s death is continuing, and CSUN President Dianne Harrison said decisions about “individual student culpability and discipline” will be made following that probe.
“This is a separate process, and students may face penalties that could be as serious as expulsion from the university,” Harrison said.
Harrison said an independent investigator hired by the university completed his report earlier this week, and she said the findings were “deeply disturbing.”
“Hazing is stupid, senseless, dangerous and against the law in California,” Harrison said. “It is a vestige of a toxic way of thinking in which it was somehow OK to degrade, humiliate and potentially harm others. It has no place on this or any university campus, in any student club or organization and it will not be tolerated.”
Harrison said university officials immediately contacted Pi Kappa Phi officials after receiving the report and gave them the option of voluntarily disbanding the chapter or facing a formal hearing at which the university would seek to force its closure. The students in the fraternity opted to surrender their charter at the university Thursday night, an action that was approved by the fraternity’s national board of directors.
Villa had been hiking barefoot July 1, and he and his fellow fraternity pledges had run out of water. Villa’s family and friends immediately argued the hike was a hazing ritual. CSUN officials suspended Pi Kappa Phi from all campus activities pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The university announced last month policies requiring fraternities, sororities and other campus groups to submit plans in advance about membership recruitment and initiation activities.
The updated policies require all groups to submit plans detailing their planned recruitment and initiation activities to a university adviser. Meanwhile, all prospective new members are required “to undergo a pre- recruitment education program prior to attending any recruitment activities and being extended an offer of membership in any organization.”
— City News Service