UB freshman Sebastian Serafin-Bazan was in stable condition Sunday evening after an alleged hazing incident at Sigma Pi fraternity in University Heights sent him to the hospital in cardiac arrest early Friday morning.
Neighbors reported seeing paramedics perform CPR on Sarafin-Bazin, a medical technology major, as he lay on the grass outside the 69 Custer Street house around 12:30 a.m. Friday. Neighbors described a chaotic scene as police spoke with hesitant students trying to leave the scene to avoid talking to police.
In response to the incident, UB President Satish Tripathi suspended all Greek organization activities on campus on Friday afternoon, pending an “internal review."
Tripathi also visited Serafin-Bazan in the hospital on Saturday afternoon.
Spectrum reporters spent Saturday in the University Heights talking to students and trying to piece together what happened. Most students did not want to give their names. Police and health professionals said they were bound by privacy laws.
The Spectrum learned that members of Sigma Pi allegedly “ordered” Serafin-Bazan to “perform exercises,” according to The Buffalo News. He was allegedly recovering from a respiratory ailment and was taken outside for “fresh air” after he fell and hit his head on a coffee table. The Buffalo News wrote there were no traces of drugs or alcohol in Serafin-Bazan’s system.
Roxanne Anderson, a Custer Street resident said she called 911 after seeing Serafin-Bazan lying on the front yard.
“I came and I see the guy lying in the yard. And I stood yelling to him … but he didn’t respond. So I walked in and called 911,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she went back to her apartment, but came back on the scene after a neighbor told her ambulances had arrived.
Adam Rodriguez, a junior medical exercise major who lives on Custer Street, said he watched as paramedics performed CPR on Serafin-Bazan.
“I’m pretty sure they had an AED plugged in on him,” Rodriguez said.
He described seeing students moving around the house and said he saw two talking with paramedics and firefighters. He said one of the students “looked like he was trying to make a run for it.”
The student was “backing up” while speaking with a firefighter and then tried to walk away, before a police officer escorted him back to the scene, Rodriguez said.
“It’s not until they loaded the patient into the ambulance where one of the kids was like, ‘Okay I was lying,’” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he didn’t know what the student was referring to.
UB spokesperson John DellaContrada said the incident qualified as possible hazing under New York State laws, which define hazing as when a person “intentionally or recklessly” engages in conduct that causes a “substantial risk” of physical injury to another person. Hazing is a Class A misdemeanor when it results in physical injury. Individual members, chapters and organizations can be sued in civil court for any mental or physical harm resulting from hazing.
The Spectrum reached out to six current and former members of Sigma Pi, but none responded. Current members blocked student reporters on social media.
Tripathi sent a statement to all students at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, saying UB has a “zero-tolerance” policy on hazing. He also announced he had suspended all official Greek-life activities and would “strongly counsel” Greek organizations on the “very serious consequences of hazing.”
“Not only are hazing incidents a violation of our university policies, but they are also crimes.” Tripathi wrote.
Vice President for Student Life A. Scott Weber sent out a student-wide email clarifying that the suspension of activities applied to social fraternities, sororities and their events. Greek Week, scheduled for next week, is now canceled.
UB spokesperson John DellaContrada wrote in an email that Weber will be forming an “internal review committee” examining each Greek organization’s health and safety, educational programs, policies and practices with a “special focus on anti-hazing.”
Associate director for Student Engagement Jude Butch, and director of Fraternity and Sorority life Pamela Stephens-Jackson declined to comment for this story.
UPD Deputy Chief Joshua Sticht said he could not comment as it is an active investigation.
Hannah Stein and Vindhya Burugupalli contributed to this story.
Tanveen Vohra is a co-senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanveen Vohra is a former senior news editor and covered international relations and graduate student protests.