HONORING THE LIFE OF GEORGE DESDUNES

 

On September 26, 2018, Cornell University permanently honored the life of George Desdunes by unveiling a plaque prominently placed at entrance of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.  This remembrance of George serves as a constant reminder to everyone involved in Greek affairs of the tragic death of George on February 25, 2011, as a result of hazing ritual by pledges and members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Following her son’s death, Marie André created groundbreaking law in New York that clearly establishes the principle that national fraternities can be held civilly liable for the wrongdoing of their members.  SAE sought to dismiss the lawsuit against it and was unsuccessful.  The opinion by the Supreme Court of New York will certainly help other families hold national fraternities responsible for the death and injury caused by their failure to prevent their chapters and members from engaging in hazing, sexual violence, binge drinking, and other misconduct.

Marie was also the force behind fundamental changes in fraternity management by Cornell University.  In doing so, Cornell took the unprecedented steps to publish the history of hazing violations by fraternities and other campus groups, accurately warning parents and students in detail of the risks associated with fraternities.  (See hazing.cornell.edu)  This reporting by Cornell is one of the highest standards of transparency in the country.  It is also worth noting that Cornell’s former Senior Associate Dean of Students, Travis Apgar, whose office was responsible for fraternities at the time of George’s death and during a span of years when SAE was regularly hazing students and operating unsafely without consequence, is no longer employed by Cornell.

By holding accountable those responsible, both the individuals and the national fraternity, Marie obtained justice for the tragic and senseless death of her son, George.  In changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing, and by the placement of a plaque in George’s honor and remembrance, Marie has effectively prevented others from enduring the same hardships she will forever suffer. 

Our firm was honored to support her efforts.

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