On the night of April 11th 2019 Sebastian Serafin-Bazan, an 18-year-old "pledge" of the University of Buffalo's Sigma Pi fraternity, was present at the fraternity's off-campus residence at 69 Custer St in Buffalo's University Heights area. According to two police sources, Serafin-Bazan's fraternity "brothers" forced the young man to perform repetitive "exercises" from the late evening of the 11th into the early morning hours of the 12th. While events inside 69 Street have not been revealed, two outside observers have gone "on the record" with statements made to the Buffalo News.
The first statement is attributed to Patty Adams, a neighbor: "One of the fraternity brothers told us that they carried him outside to get him some fresh air after he fell and hit the back of his head on a coffee table … We were told he had the flu."
The second statement comes from an individual identifying himself as Lavontae Armwood, a senior at the University of Buffalo, who said that he observed "four or five individuals" who were carrying Serafin-Bazan before placing him on the lawn in front of 69 Custer Street. Armwood also stated that one of the individuals remained with the individual later identified as Serafin-Bazan, but that the rest had fled the area before police and EMS units arrived.
Based on the remarks mentioned in the two paragraphs immediately-above, it appears that the brothers of Sigma Pi forgot to make sure that the choir was singing from the same page of the songbook.
Sigma Pi has a history of investigations
In addition to the death of Serafin-Bazan, the Sigma Pi fraternity has frequently found itself on the wrong side of its host schools' administrations.
- 2018: The University of Colorado at Boulder chapter of Sigma Pi was ordered to "cease and desist" operations after 5 students alleged they had been drugged while attending a party the Sigma Pi fraternity house. The allegations are officially listed as "under investigation" by the Boulder Police Department and by Sigma Pi's national headquarters.
- 2018: The Ohio University chapter of Sigma Pi was "suspended pending investigation" following the death of Collin Wiant, who was found unresponsive at an "unofficial annex" to the Sigma Pi fraternity house. Wiant's parents later filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming both the local chapter and the Sigma Pi national headquarters as defendants. The incident is listed as "under investigation" by both Ohio University and the Athens (OH) Police Department.
- 2017: The fraternity's national office elected to close its "colony" (a chapter in its organizational phase) at Illinois Wesleyan University after being informed that the colony had hosted an "event" where alcohol had been served to those below the legal drinking age.
- 2016: The University of Missouri banned Sigma Pi from campus after the frat first withdrew from the school's "Greek Community."
- 2016: The national headquarters of Sigma Pi closed its Hofstra University chapter over violations of "risk management" policies.
- 2014: The Elon University chapter of Sigma Pi was suspended for 3 years after a "whistleblower" notified both the school and the fraternity's national headquarters that pledges had been forced to lie on bottle caps as a part of their initiation.
While we admit that the actions of one fraternity chapter are not a predictor of how another chapter on a different campus will respond to a tragedy such as the one discussed here; we must also remind ourselves that the death of Sebastian Serafin-Bazan could be seen as yet another case of what happens when parents "foot the bill" for children who never learned the meaning of responsibility.