Cal State Northridge said Friday an internal investigation determined hazing was involved in the death of a college freshman who passed out in the Angeles National Forest during a hike with other fraternity pledges in July.
CSUN President Dianne Harrison said the fraternity involved has surrendered its CSUN chapter and individual student culpability will be determined at the conclusion of the criminal investigation into the death of Armando Villa.
Villa, 19, a pledge to the Zeta Mu Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, lost consciousness July 1 in the Angeles National Forest after the group he was with ran out of water. Other pledges were able to track down a ranger for help, but Villa was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
"The report’s findings are deeply disturbing, and I will not turn a blind eye to any reports of hazing," Harrison said in a statement. "Hazing is stupid, senseless, dangerous and against the law in California. It is a vestige of a toxic way of thinking in which it was somehow okay 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 the 18-mile hike was poorly planned, without enough water. The pledges were blindfolded and their phones and shoes were taken from them.
Family members believe Villa’s death was the result of a hazing ritual. They were asking for students who were there that day to come forward.
“Why did this go south as bad as it did to take my cousin’s life for a dumb reason like hazing?” said Joshua Castaneda.
“There’s just a lot of things that don’t add up and what they’re telling us, it’s not enough. They know a lot more than they’re telling us,” says Jose Serrato, Villa’s stepfather, told NBC4 last month.
His mother and stepfather said they found a note in Villa's phone after his death talking about hazing and his desire to stop it. Villa's family was present for Harrison's announcement Friday.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is conducting its own investigation. The results of that investigation have not been released.
Sheriff's officials said hazing took place, but it's not yet known whether it caused Villa's death.
“It’s been 67 days since we lost him and we still don’t have answers,” said Villa’s family member.
New guidelines for fraternities and sororities were also set in place Aug. 19, with university officials saying campus groups would be required to submit recruitment plans to the school in advance.