Letter to the Editor 4-14-16

There is no factual evidence that Marquise had been considering suicide “for a very long time.” Zero. Had the barest due diligence or minimal investigation been performed, it would have become abundantly clear this was the case. No family members, long-time friends or even Marquise’s pediatrician from birth were contacted to inquire if he’d shown any evidence of mental health issues or depression. He did not, though his high school friends did notice a negative change in his personality after he joined the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and was required to take part in their twisted activities.

Marquise became increasingly distressed and troubled by the secret hazing rituals he was required to endure and witness. Sadly, Marquise never shared any of the violent and extreme activities in his fraternal life with us before he died, but we discovered plenty of evidence of that on his phone and laptop. The reason he didn’t tell us is likely because he was ashamed of the things he and his Phi Sigma Kappa brothers were doing. Considering his warm and friendly personality and life-long Catholic upbringing, watching while his frat brothers begged for the hazing to stop would have consumed Marquise with guilt. It also had him questioning his own decency and Christian faith. Fraternities are also secret societies, and he would be subject to punitive measures if he spoke out. Perhaps he was…

The grand jury determined that Marquise had been violently hazed but chose to take no action despite clear evidence of that fact. Sadly, their decision to forgo any punishment is the normal result in hazing cases, even fatal ones. Pennsylvania has a long and sordid history of hazing deaths, dating back to one of the earliest recorded cases in 1885. Some frat members even choose to come to Pennsylvania from other states to haze their pledges.

The apparently lax attitude taken by the criminal justice system in response to hazing cases actually helps to perpetuate them. Once Marquise has his day in court, we will be able to clearly and convincingly show that he was a victim of hazing and that prior to being recruited by Phi Sigma Kappa, he had been completely focused on his bright and promising future.

Through our civil action, we’re determined to hold those who profit from hazing accountable and will require them to publicly disclose their history of illegal and illicit behavior so other young men and women –and their parents – can truly make informed choices before deciding to become one of their members.

Letter from Richard Braham, Father of Marquise Braham

This Letter to the Editor is a response to “Hazing prevention aims for zero tolerance.”