Hazing News

Farmhouse letter in which it finds evidence of hazing (swats, threats of sex with goat) at U-Minnesota chapter

This is the text of the letter in which Farmhouse acknowledged hazing violations by its Minnesota chapter:

FarmHouse Fraternity, Inc.
Building Men since 1905
March 28, 2006

Jeff Schmitz, Minnesota FarmHouse Chapter President
Brad Schloesser, Minnesota FarmHouse Association President
Minnesota FarmHouse Chapter
1505 N. Cleveland Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108

Dear Jeff and Brad,
In cooperation with the investigation underway with the University of Minnesota, this letter is to officially acknowledge risk management violations that have been confirmed within the Minnesota FarmHouse Chapter, support of the sanctions as
determined by the University of Minnesota and additional sanctions/expectations from FarmHouse International. This letter specifically outlines those concerns and details expectations of the Association and Chapter in regards to making necessary
changes to the new member education program and overall culture of the chapter.
Our investigation in cooperation with the University of Minnesota reveals the following risk management violations that
have occurred:

1. Strapping – chapter members have apparently engaged in an activity called strapping for many years – in which members are hit across the rear as a disciplinary measure for missing meetings/events and “straps” are exchanged by
brothers after being formally initiated. Regardless of whether marks are left and/or whether it’s a good-natured activity, we
believe this rises to the level of hazing and fails to pass our “videotape test” concept (see Page 2). Unquestionably, it is an
activity that must be permanently ended if the chapter is to continue.

2. Showering – chapter members engaged in an activity called showering – in which members were wrestled, then stripped to boxers and turned upside down and hung over a balcony by their feet with water poured on them when brothers are
elected president, are graduating seniors, brothers not fulfilling responsibilities, etc. There are multiple concerns with this
activity including risk management, safety, public relations and hazing. The primary concerns lie with the wrestling that
occurs, the public humiliation of a brother being stripped to his boxers and brought outside, the shock of cold water and the
safety concerns should one of the brothers holding him upside down by his ankles lose his grip and possible resulting
neck/head injury. This activity must be permanently ended if the chapter is to continue.

3. Livestock mind game – active members bought condoms and brought pledges to a livestock barn, making pledges think
they were going to have sex with a farm animal. Once the men got to the fence they’re told it’s just a joke. However, this is
not a joking matter, instead it’s clearly a violation of our FIPG risk management policy for “morally degrading or
humiliating games and activities.” This activity must be permanently ended if the chapter is to continue.

4. Pre-Initiation Program – apparently mind games were played throughout the pre-initiation program. Examples –
“Jacks” were assigned to intimidate pledges, haze and stay on pledges throughout initiation. There are conflicting reports
about late night cleaning, forced cleaning with toothbrushes, actives dirtying house/areas immediately after pledges cleaned
it during initiation. Trust walks need to build trust and confidence, not try to scare and intimidate pledges into respect.
Eliminate the mind game business about whether someone’s been initiated or not. It serves no purpose and only builds
frustration and unneeded stress. A close examination of the pre-initiation program reveals a variety of questionable
activities and hazing throughout. The entire pre-initiation program must be scrapped and rebuilt, using our model
FarmHouse new member education materials as a base. The resources are merely a tool for re-shaping things. Most
importantly, the culture and attitude towards new members must change. Every activity needs to be geared
towards building a positive, supporting new member education and pre-initiation experience.

Any Minnesota specific
traditions that you wish to continue and have added to the model FarmHouse new member education program that you’ll
use as a base must be reviewed and approved by FarmHouse International and the University of Minnesota Greek Life
office. Do they pass our “videotape test?” Why are they being added?

We have worked closely with the University of Minnesota in the sanctions as outlined in the letter you received from
Mandi Watkins and are in support of the sanctions as outlined. Below you will see additional sanctions/expectations as
outlined by FarmHouse International. As you work through this process the Minnesota FarmHouse Association, team of
chapter advisors and Chapter may determine that additional sanctions, consequences or actions are appropriate.

Effective immediately, the FarmHouse International Board has suspended activities of the chapter through the end of the
2006-07 academic year, effectively meaning that all activities must be approved by FarmHouse International. A
membership review will take place in coordination with the University of Minnesota by April 30, 2006. Following the
review, an oversight committee of Fraternity alumni representatives and university officials will monitor and approve
programs and activities of the chapter.

In addition, the chapter will not be permitted to hold any social events, participate in
Homecoming or Spring Jam or compete in our chapter awards process through the end of the 2006-07 school year.
To help institute the changes that need to be made we want to work closely with the local leadership an opportunity to
tackle this head on at the local level. We’ve learned over the years that change usually happens more swiftly, more
accountability occurs and less blame cast when discipline and change is initiated at a local level.

We believe the changes that need to be made go beyond tweaking of activities and expectations. We believe substantial and
permanent changes need to occur at the Minnesota Chapter. Prior to the Chapter’s 75th Anniversary Celebration May 5-7 a
full day planning retreat and membership review will take place coordinated by the Minnesota FarmHouse Association and
chapter advisors, with the assistance of the FarmHouse International Office, and with the entire chapter in attendance.

Specific to that all-day retreat we’d ask that the Minnesota FarmHouse Association request a representative of the
Minnesota Student Activities or Greek Life department to provide a keynote educational address to everyone in attendance
– outlining the university’s anti-hazing policy and providing a summary report from the investigation (what the university
believes rises to the level of hazing, violation of university policy and why). Please have them address:
– outlining the university’s stance on these violations and what the sanctions entail;
– what they see as being the ideal new member education program in 2006;
– what simply cannot happen in new member programs at the University in 2006;
– the increased involvement of parents in student’s lives and lack of tolerance students have today for being hazed,
mind games, blackball threats, etc.

After that session, we’d challenge the Association and Chapter to begin discussions about what needs to happen, ultimately:
– engaging in an in-depth discussion about what activities need to be eliminated that an outsider might consider
hazing (whether it be actives or pledges) – use Page 1 of the February 2006 Flash as self-evaluation tool of
activities that rise to the level of hazing or questionable activities (
Make copies for each participant;
– a complete overhaul of the pre-initiation program (model program on website to be used as a base).
– the chapter implementing the new member education materials for the 12-week program as outlined by
FarmHouse International – and carefully considering what Minnesota traditions and activities might be added;
– what additional changes need to occur to create a positive new member education and pre-initiation experience?
A simple test to determine whether an activity is hazing – would you feel comfortable videotaping the activity and 1) show
it to a recruit’s parents; 2) show to a professor and attorney; 3) show it to the FarmHouse International Office; 4) show it to
the Dean of Students office; 5) show it on the evening news and saying this is what FarmHouse stands for?

We also request:
1. That a detailed report from the retreat be submitted to the FarmHouse International Headquarters and the Minnesota
Greek Affairs Department by Sunday, April 23, 2006, jointly agreed to and signed off on by the chapter and association
outlining the changes that will be made to the Minnesota New Member Education process and chapter as a whole.

2. That the Minnesota FarmHouse Association assist university officials and FarmHouse International with the formation of
the oversight committee that will work closely with the chapter to help develop and implement changes that are needed.
Much thought and consideration should be given to which alumni should be hand-picked to serve on this team. We’d
suggest that this team work closely with the Chapter Executive Board. We need this oversight committee to submit a
complete report/outline for the Fall 2006 new member education program to the FarmHouse International Headquarters and
the Minnesota Greek Affairs Department by July 1, 2006. We would like this oversight committee to continue to work with
the chapter throughout the fall semester, providing monthly reports of progress to FarmHouse International with the
changes being implemented (four reports – one by Sept 1, one by Oct 1, one by Nov 1, one by Dec 1).

3. Space devoted in next issue of Minnesota FarmHouse Alumni newsletter to help educate alumni on the changes being
made to the new member education program, why they’ve changed, chapter and personal liability, the risks associated with
going back to doing things the old way, etc.

4. Time must be devoted at the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Chapter to educate alumni on the violations, sanctions
and what changes must occur. Detail must be provided about the two separate investigations, what’s at risk and what needs
to be done to move forward. This session must be geared towards educating alumni, getting buy in and getting alumni to
commit themselves to the changes that must be made to survive.

5. A Chapter and Association Representative (ideally Jeff and Brad) will be expected to provide a personal testimonial at
the 44th Biennial FarmHouse Conclave this summer in Nashville about this case – specifically the violations that occurred,
the history of the incidents, the judicial process, the chapter investigation, the sanctions and what you’ve learned from this.
This program will precede a Hazing/Risk Management general session at Conclave from FarmHouse alumnus and NIC
Board Member Rick Barnes.

6. To determine as an association, team of advisors and chapter executive board whether additional self-imposed
punishments and/or consequences should result from the allegations of violations that have been confirmed. If the
conditions described by the University and FarmHouse International are not met, more severe sanctions may be imposed.

7. All members and pledges sign the attached Risk Management verification forms and submit to FarmHouse International
Office by April 24, 2006.
Pending the response/action of the Minnesota Chapter, the FarmHouse International Board reserves the right to take
additional action as outlined in the FarmHouse Disciplinary Procedures. However, it is our hope that the chapter and
association will tackle this issue head-on and make the necessary changes in process, mindset and culture that clearly need
to occur for FarmHouse to survive at the University of Minnesota for another 75 years.
Making these necessary changes will forever strengthen your chapter. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact
Dwight at 217-xxx-8346 or Jim at 800-xxx-1905. (numbers x’ed out my moderator of this blog)

Dwight Raab Jim Griffith, CAE
International President Executive Director

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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