Dead student’s frat has history of deadly hazing
National fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon says on its website it provides “outstanding leadership, philanthropy, and advocacy in the community.”
The site makes no mention of dead pledges left in the fraternity’s wake in recent years, as fatalities in California and Texas from hazing-related incidents cost Lambda Phi Epsilon millions in legal judgments.
Also missing from the website is any mention of 18-year-old Peter Tran.
Tran, a freshman at San Francisco State University, was found dead at a home not far from the school last month after attending a Lambda Phi Epsilon party, as reported by student newspaper Golden Gate Xpress.
When contacted by SFBay, Lambda Phi Epsilon national president Charles Andrean — now a graduate assistant for fraternity and student life at Southern Illinois University — said:
“It’s definitely an unfortunate situation. We have expressed our deepest condolences to the family for this loss. It’s very sad for our entire organization to see a member pass.”
Andrean said Lamba Phi Epsilon has been in contact with SF State and is cooperating with authorities as the incident is investigated:
“We’re in full cooperation with everyone we need to be. We’re just as concerned and focused in finding out what happened as everybody else.”
No cause of death has yet been released, though Tran’s death follows a series of chilling reports detailing extreme hazing of Lambda pledges at Cal Poly in Pomona, the University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University in Chicago.
In August 2005, Cal Poly freshman Kenny Luong died from injuries sustained in a football game staged between Lambda pledges at UC Irvine and a group of Cal Poly students hoping to open a Lambda Phi Epsilon chapter.
Luong’s parents were awarded a $1.7 million wrongful death judgment in the case. Since Lambda Phi Epsilon was found to have no liability insurance, the award was paid by the homeowners’ insurance of the parents of the fraternity members involved.
The national fraternity now spends upwards of $150,000 on insurance premiums, according to their 2011 Form 990 tax return.
Also in 2005, University of Texas student Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died of alcohol poisoning the day after his initiation into Lambda Phi Epsilon.
After consuming large quantities of alcohol, Phoummarath passed out and was dragged to bed by his frat brothers, according to KTRK-TV in Houston. They drew on his face with permanent marker before leaving him. He was found dead hours later.
Phoummarath’s family settled for $4.2 million. The settlement also required those involved in the incident to produce an educational video and take part in binge drinking death prevention efforts.
A 2008 story in the Daily Northwestern detailed brutal hazing where Lambda pledges were forced to drink gallons of thick, spicy and strange — though non-alcoholic — fluids:
“Each pledge drank about two gallons before the ‘takeout,’ as the pledge events are called, ended. This one was called DTYD: Drink ‘Til You Drop.”
On its website, Lambda Phi Epsilon proudly declares itself as “the first and only internationally-recognized Asian-interest fraternity.” Founded in 1981 at UCLA, the fraternity now comprises about 50 chapters at schools including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Cornell and Columbia.