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Death of Dartmouth student triggers police investigation into hazing; university suspends two Greek organizations

Death of Dartmouth student triggers police investigation into hazing; university suspends two Greek organizations



CNN

The hours-long disappearance and subsequent confirmed death of a member of a Dartmouth College fraternity has prompted police to investigate the case as a possible incident of hazing. The Ivy League university has suspended the 20-year-old’s Greek organization and a fraternity.

Won Jang, a member of Beta Alpha Omega, was last seen by friends around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at an informal social gathering on the docks near the Dartmouth Boathouse on the Connecticut River, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said in a news release.

When he failed to show up for an event the next day, authorities were notified, the agency said. Items found near the dock indicated Jang had not left the river area, which authorities searched while divers checked the water.

About three and a half hours after Jang was reported missing, his body was found by an underwater camera in the Connecticut River not far from the dock where he was last seen, police said.

The cause of death is still unclear, but the school forwarded anonymous emails to the nearby Hanover Police Department suggesting that bullying or alcohol may have contributed to Jang’s death, Police Chief Charlie Dennis said during a news conference Monday.

“This is certainly a tragic event,” he said, asking anyone with information to come forward and help with the investigation. Hanover police did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for more information on the case.

Jang was a member of the Dartmouth chapter of Beta Alpha Omega, according to the college and his profile on the fraternity’s website, which has since been deleted. While Hanover police investigate his death, Dartmouth suspended the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity as well as the Alpha Phi sorority, college spokeswoman Morgan Kelly told CNN on Wednesday. Kelly would not say what role the fraternity or sorority played in the investigation into Jang’s death.

“We cannot provide details of an ongoing investigation, but we can say that at the time of the incident, Beta Alpha Omega was on alcohol probation after being suspended during the fall, winter and spring semesters. Alpha Phi was placed on alcohol probation during the fall 2023 semester and then returned to good standing,” Kelly added.

The local chapter of Beta Alpha Omega and the national organization of Alpha Phi did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Jang’s death and the police investigation follow a series of deaths from hazing initiation rituals on or near U.S. college campuses in recent years that have led to suspensions, expulsions, criminal charges and scrutiny of university oversight of fraternities.

Seventy-three percent of American fraternity students have been victims of some form of hazing at least once, according to a 2008 study published by the University of Maine, the most recent study of its kind available.

Jang’s death came nearly two months after the body of another Dartmouth student was found in the Connecticut River after she was reported missing, CNN affiliate WMUR reported. Their deaths do not appear to be related.

Jang studied biomedical engineering and economics at Dartmouth and, according to his LinkedIn profile, worked part-time in the school’s DALI Lab, a startup-like experiential learning program where students work in teams of designers and developers.

“Won wholeheartedly embraced the opportunities at Dartmouth to pursue his academic and personal passions,” Dean Scott C. Brown wrote on a website commemorating deceased members of the school community.

“We have been in contact with Won’s family and have expressed our sincere condolences during this extremely difficult time,” he continued.

Kledian Marinaj, a friend of Jang who recently tried to arrange a dinner date with him, was shocked by his death, he told CNN affiliate WMUR.

“Won was always a great guy,” Marinaj said. “I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t see him with a smile on his face.”

Jang was the valedictorian of his high school in Middletown, Delaware, according to his LinkedIn profile and the YouTube recording of the graduation ceremony. During the introduction to his commencement speech, he was praised by an administrator for his wit, humility and motivation.

CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.