IOWA CITY — Despite an appeal from a recently-suspended University of Iowa fraternity accused of high-risk hazing involving alcohol abuse and harassment, UI administrators upheld the decision, citing the “dangerous, potentially life-threatening, and overall heinous nature of the violations.”
In appealing its suspension through Dec. 13, 2024 — followed by two concurrent semesters of disciplinary probation — members of the Iowa Acacia Fraternity accused a UI investigator of exercising biased discretion based on erroneous facts resulting in “unduly harsh” punishment.
But UI Associate Dean of Students William Nelson rejected those assertions and arguments.
“It is my opinion that the discretion exercised by the investigator was reasonable and justified based on my review of the entirety of all of the evidence, testimony, and documentation in this case,” he wrote in his decision on the Acacia appeal.
“I have no reason to believe the findings of facts in the case are erroneous,” Nelson wrote. “Given the dangerous, potentially life-threatening, and overall heinous nature of the violations, committed individually or collectively, the sanctions are completely appropriate and commensurate with the violations.”
The UI chapter — re-founded on campus in 2015 — was sanctioned for hazing, alcohol, property, and other violations after a recent investigation revealed fraternity members in fall 2019 and at the start of the 2020 spring semester harassed new recruits and put them in dangerous situations, including ones involving alcohol.
“All new members were berated and called demeaning and misogynistic names at various times during Initiation Week,” according to a UI investigative report provided to The Gazette following a public records request.
But Acacia’s appeal argued a UI investigator “showed unwarranted favorable biases toward the reporting parties and made statements that are not supported by the evidence gathered.” It also accused those who reported the fraternity of having ulterior motives.
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“The original report was not made of good-faith and instead was used solely to help their lease dispute,” according to the Acacia appeal.
Specifically, fraternity defenders said former members who reported hazing and alcohol violations wanted out of a $12,000 lease obligation and threatened to tell on the chapter if it didn’t release them.
“Investigators glossed over the reporting party’s incentives to not be truthful in their report; their perception that reporting what they planned to report would exonerate them from a lease obligation of $12,000,” according to the appeal. “This perspective by members of the reporting parties is clearly an incentive for being (potentially) less than truthful in the reporting party’s interviews.”
The concerned students could have anonymously reported to a chapter adviser but “neglected to mention any concern for a year-plus and instead only went to the university when the lease dispute arose.”
“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,” according to the appeal.
UI investigators acknowledged the lease dispute in their findings but found the reporters more credible