‘This isn’t worth it.’ Former member of deregistered Acacia Fraternity recounts events leading to chapter suspension

The UI Acacia Fraternity chapter was suspended through December 2024 after being found responsible for high-risk hazing practices and multiple violations of conduct policies during the fraternity’s fall 2019 and spring 2020 initiations.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The UI Acacia Fraternity is seen on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

Josie Fischels, Arts Editor

Being blindfolded and forced to drink a “horrible” concoction, coerced into signing a lease, locked in an attic overnight in below-freezing temperatures, and having his fingertips burned by a match until he could correctly recite the Greek alphabet were only some of the hazing methods one former member of the Acacia Fraternity endured before the University of Iowa deregistered the chapter in the fall. 

The Daily Iowan chose to grant the former fraternity member’s request to remain anonymous because of threats of possible violent action toward himself or property received from members of the chapter. 

The UI Acacia Fraternity chapter was suspended through December 2024 after being found responsible for high-risk hazing practices and multiple violations of conduct policies during the fraternity’s fall 2019 and spring 2020 initiations. The former member who spoke with the DI officially dropped the fraternity before reporting the chapter alongside others at the end of the summer. 

The chapter is not recognized by the university and “has lost all rights and privileges associated with being a recognized student organization at the university, including funding and access to space as an organization,” according to a statement from UI Director of Media Relations Anne Bassett.

Detailed in a 23-page report from the UI Office of Student Accountability, the over three-week investigation found that new recruits were harassed, berated with demeaning and misogynistic names throughout initiation, and put in harmful situations — some involving alcohol consumption — during the fall 2019 and spring 2020 initiation weeks. The fraternity had already been on probation for alcohol, misconduct, and other violations stemming from incidents in 2018 when the fall 2019 events occurred. 

Assistant Executive Director of the national Acacia Fraternity Michael Weber wrote in a statement to the DI that the fraternity has not yet made a final decision on the UI Acacia chapter’s future. 

“We take these allegations very seriously. The health and safety of students is the top priority for Acacia Fraternity and there is no tolerance for the actions reported. We believe any individuals found guilty of these acts should be held accountable,” Weber wrote in the statement. 

The UI chapter of the Acacia Fraternity did not immediately respond to the DI’s request for comment. 

According to Bassett, the UI will not confirm or deny whether individual student discipline for members of Acacia will be involved due to privacy laws.

The UI chapter of the fraternity has since attempted to appeal the sanctions, citing a lease dispute that they argued gave the reporting parties “ulterior motives” for reporting the fraternity and accusing a UI investigator of showing “unwarranted favorable biases toward the reporting parties and made statements that are not supported by the evidence gathered.” 

The appeal and accusations were denied by UI Associate Dean of Students Bill Nelson. 

RELATED: University of Iowa sanctions four Greek chapters for violating COVID-19 guidelines

The fraternity is holding the reporting parties, who have since left the fraternity, to a $12,000 lease obligation they signed to live in the fraternity house, which members said gave the reporting parties an incentive to report and be “(potentially) less than truthful in the reporting party’s interviews,” members wrote in the appeal. 

“Throughout the lease dispute, members of the reporting parties made active threats via online communication platforms to report the Acacia Fraternity to the university unless they were fully released from their leasing obligations,” members wrote in the appeal. 

The former member who experienced hazing in fall 2019 told the DI that new recruits were coerced into signing the lease during their very first chapter, threatening to drop them from the fraternity or moved to the “lowest in their pledge class” if they did not. 

“They told us, ‘Sign now and ask questions later,’” he said. 

In the university’s official denial of the appeal, Nelson wrote that given the potentially life-threatening nature of the fraternity’s violations, the sanctions placed on the chapter were appropriate. The report’s findings also found the reporting parties to be credible witnesses after they consistently recounted the hazing events in great detail, despite acknowledging that they risked receiving outside threats and harassment from the fraternity. 

The former Acacia member told the DI that following the report and the fraternity’s suspension, he and others had been threatened by active members of the chapter. Over the course of several accusations against the fraternity, the former member said he had also been pressured by active members to deny any of the accusations were true.

During the investigation, reporting members expressed that they fully expected to be assaulted both verbally and possibly physically following the interviews they did with members of the investigative team, according to the report. 

“You get Acacia, we’ll get you,” one threat read that was possibly targeted at the reporting parties, the report stated. 

The UI team also interviewed new members of Acacia, who they reported gave inconsistent details regarding the initiation nights. Multiple new members repeated the phrase, “That was a long time ago, I don’t remember” when asked about the events of the initiation weeks, according to the report. 

While meeting with university investigators over Zoom, reporting parties stated that on the first night of initiation week, Nov. 13, 2019, new members were instructed to wait in the basement of the chapter house — where many slept on the floor without bedding for several nights — until they were called upstairs and expected to “shotgun two to three beers” according to the report. 

Members then lined up and ran to a nearby park taking turns carrying a 70 pound cinder block in “unseasonably cold” temperatures, according to the report. Once at the park, new members were told to perform various exercises for up to 45 minutes, all while one of them held the cinder block, the report stated. 

After taking turns carrying the cinder block back to the chapter house, new members were given more to drink and were told to wall-sit in the entry area of the house while they learned the fraternity song, “We’re All Good Brothers,” the report stated.

“This is stupid,” the former chapter member told the DI he recalled thinking while he watched one of the new members have objects thrown at him while he struggled to learn the song and hold the cinder block. “This isn’t worth it. Why am I doing this?”

On the second night, reporting parties told UI investigators that new members arrived at the house with swimsuits or something to get wet in. 

“We were blindfolded and forced to drink a concoction that, let me tell you, made me feel funny,” the former member told the DI. 

According to the report, members had been blindfolded and whipped with wet towels possibly doused in vinegar and had sand thrown at them. The new members then laid on a tarp and were tossed around on it by actives, a point in the initiation intended to symbolize “Pythagoras’ journey to Egypt.” The members were also given an unknown liquid to drink, later alleged to be a concoction of grapefruit juice, carrot juice, and vinegar.

RELATED: Six University of Iowa greek chapters on interim probation

Afterward, new members were taken to the attic to recite the Greek alphabet while holding a burning match upside down. Reportedly, only one new member could fully recite the alphabet without burning his fingers. Members were then forced to remain in the uninsulated attic for the entire night studying for their final pledge exam, which was taken between 5-6 a.m. the next morning, according to the report.

“We had to take the test in 30 degrees, in a freezing cold attic, after being forced to stay up all night, not allowed to study for any of our [actual] exams, midterms, anything like that. If it wasn’t completed, you were dropped,” the former member told the DI. 

Active members verbally assaulted new members and took pages away from them while they completed the seven page pledge exam. At least one new member failed a university exam that day because he had not been allowed to study the previous night, according to the report.

Members returned to the house after class Friday night and were blindfolded again, led into different rooms throughout the house as part of a reportedly “confusing” activity where they looked at various objects on tables in each of the rooms — including apparent drugs and drug paraphernalia, pornography, an Air Soft gun, alcohol, and a triangle, according to the report — while active members repeatedly yelled, “What does it mean?”

Remaining blindfolded, the new members were then taken to the initiation ceremony at the Masonic Temple in Iowa City, where they were to explain the Pythagorean Theorem to active members in under a minute, many again enduring verbal assault if they were unsuccessful. 

Members of the reporting party had also witnessed the initiation week of the spring 2020 recruits, and expressed concern in the report for what was happening to new members. In February, 13-15 new recruits had been locked in the attic of the chapter house and were not allowed to leave until they had drank all of the alcohol in the room, which included 60-90 cans of beer, 2-3 handles of vodka, and a gallon of jungle juice. Several became ill and the report stated that the reporting parties believed they needed medical attention. 

“Two kids needed to go to the hospital, and [active members] would not let them leave the house. They said it would ruin the fraternity,” the former member told the DI

Following bid night, up to four members had dropped the fraternity, and one left the university entirely, according to the report. The former member of Acacia said he’d originally joined and went through the grueling initiation process because he simply ‘wanted friends.’

“The second I dropped I realized it’s ‘pay for friends,’” he said. “The second you don’t pay — they’re not your friends.”