Dartmouth student’s death prompts police hazing probe as university suspends 2 Greek organizations

From Won Jang

The hourslong disappearance, then confirmed death of a Dartmouth College fraternity member has police investigating the case as a possible hazing incident. The Ivy League school has suspended the 20-year-old’s Greek organization, as well as a sorority.

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

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

About 3 1/2 hours after Jang was reported missing, his body was found in the Connecticut River by an underwater camera not far from the dock where he last was seen, the department said.

While a cause of death remains unclear, the school forwarded to the nearby Hanover Police Department anonymous emails indicating hazing or alcohol may have contributed to Jang’s death, Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said during a Monday news conference.

“Certainly this is a tragic event,” he said, asking anyone with information to come forward to help with the investigation. Hanover Police did not immediately reply to CNN’s request for more information about the case.

Jang had been a member of Dartmouth’s chapter of Beta Alpha Omega, according to the college and his profile on the fraternity’s website, which has been taken down. As Hanover police investigate his death, Dartmouth suspended the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity, along with the Alpha Phi sorority, college spokesperson Morgan Kelly told CNN on Wednesday. Kelly would not say what role the fraternity or sorority played relative to the investigation into Jang’s death.

“We aren’t able to provide details on an ongoing investigation, but we can say that at the time of the incident, Beta Alpha Omega was on alcohol probation following a fall-, winter- and spring-term suspension. Alpha Phi was placed on alcohol probation during the fall 2023 term and then returned to good standing,” Kelly added.

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

Jang’s death and the police probe follow a spate of hazing deaths in recent years on or near US college campuses that have led variously to suspensions, expulsions, criminal charges and scrutiny of university oversight of fraternities and sororities.

Seventy-three percent of students in US fraternities and sororities experienced what they called some form of hazing at least once, according to a University of Maine study released in 2008, the most recent available for such research.

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

An ‘amazing guy’ who was always smiling

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

“Won wholeheartedly embraced opportunities at Dartmouth to pursue his academic and personal passions,” Dean Scott C. Brown wrote on a site memorializing school community members who have died.

“We are in contact with Won’s family and have expressed our sincere condolences at this most difficult time,” he continued.

Kledian Marinaj, a friend of Jang who recently had been trying to make plans to grab a meal with him, was upset by his death, he told CNN affiliate WMUR.

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

CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.

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