TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is named in a hazing claim led by a student who said they endured “relentless” physical and emotional abuse at the hands of tenured members.
The claimant is a former student at the UA and member of the university’s Beta Iota Chapter of Theta Chi who claims older members of the fraternity forced him to perform grueling workouts and beat him while playing loud Nazi Party music. A notice of claims from the law firm representing the young man, said he is suing the university for $1,000,000 in damages, claiming that the institution failed to adequately supervise the fraternity and its activities.
“We really want a change in conduct from the university and from the fraternity itself,” said Alex Zolg, a lawyer representing the student.
The claimant accepted a bid to the fraternity April 2019 during the second semester of his freshman year. He is suing the university in connection to a hazing incident that left him with a slew of medical bills and severe damage to his eyesight, the notice claims. The student did not file a police report. His lawyers say he feared retribution if he reported the hazing.
“The culture of the fraternity is...so much manipulation and intimidation to such a degree...there was so much fear around that,” Zolg said.
The claimant said he and other new members were forced to perform physically intense workouts while older members beat them. The notice claims that hazing activities not only took place after hours but also during sanctioned chapter meetings.
During one hazing incident on April 12, 2019, the claimant said he and other new members were forced to do exercises while answering questions from older members at the chapter house, located at 502 N. Campbell Ave. Some members were forced to recite the Theta Chi creed while old members choked them, the claim said.
New members were also forced to do push ups and other exercises in shards of broken glass, according to the claim.
The claimant was quizzed about another member’s hometown and when he said he couldn’t remember where his fellow member was from, he was forced to drink hot sauce. When the young man failed to answer the question again, an older member of the fraternity threw hot sauce in his eyes.
The next day, the claimant was diagnosed with chemical conjunctivitis by an urgent care physician. When his symptoms worsened, the young man went to Banner University Medical Center where healthcare providers determined he had developed a blood infection from the cuts on his palms and elbows.
The claimant’s situation continued to deteriorate the visual acuity of his right eye measured 20/200, the legal threshold for blindness. Since May, the young man’s eyesight improved slightly, but another physician determined he had suffered an acid chemical burn from the hot sauce, according to the notice.
“The psychological and emotional (damage) is just unbelievable,” said Robert Thompson, another lawyer representing the student.
The former UA student left the university for fear of retribution from other Theta Chi members, according to the notice, and is unsure if his eyesight will return to normal.
The Theta Chi chapter is under investigation by the UA Dean of Students Office after this claim was submitted. According to the University of Arizona website, the fraternity is under interim suspension.
We reached out to the University of Arizona and were told they cannot comment on pending litigation. The national Theta Chi organization submitted this response to the claim: