UK’s FarmHouse Fraternity had a culture of hazing, investigations reveal

Excerpts from UK’s Student Code of Conduct investigation reveal FarmHouse Fraternity showed a “deeply ingrained culture of alcohol and hazing behaviors.”

Members of FarmHouse Fraternity were subjected to shotgunning a beer with a homeless person, trust falling from the bed of a pickup truck and kidnapping an active member. 

Following the death of new member Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwoood on Oct. 18, 2021, the University of Kentucky’s Student Code of Conduct investigation revealed FarmHouse Fraternity showed a “deeply ingrained culture of alcohol and hazing behaviors.”

Hazelwood’s cause of death was ruled accidental and showed no signs of foul play, according to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.

FarmHouse’s Executive Director and CEO Christian Wiggins did not respond by deadline to talk with the Kernel, instead asking through a representative of the organization to be sent the questions ahead of time, which is not the Kernel’s policy.

The FarmHouse Fraternity chapter was suspended for at least four years and removed as a registered student organization, according to the conduct investigation.

The University of Kentucky’s Hazing Prevention Policy describes “any action or situation created by a member of the University Community against another member of the University Community for the purpose of affiliation with a group or organization that:

1. Is negligent or reckless in nature;

2. Is humiliating or endangers an individual; or

3. Unreasonably interferes with scholastic or employment activities.”

According to the Code of Student Conduct Policies, FarmHouse Fraternity violated such guidelines and were recommended charges of hazing, misuse of alcohol, violations of law or other UK policies and failure to follow UK COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

The documents reveal activities and events pledges underwent during their first semester as new members within the FarmHouse Fraternity, according to student conduct interviews and witness testimonies.

‘Camp Out’

FarmHouse Fraternity active and new members attend a semesterly “Camp Out” where they travel to an active member’s off-campus farm at which a majority of the chapter is present, including chapter officers. 

FarmHouse Fraternity’s “Camp Out” event is described on page 7 of UK’s student conduct report.

This year’s event took place at an unknown location about 90 minutes away from campus on Sept. 24, 2021.

New members were told not to bring camping gear, including a sleeping bag or tents, despite being told they were staying the night. They were informed to dress warmly instead.

The camp out acts as the first time new members spend time together as a group, participating in activities with each other and sometimes with active members.

Some of these activities in the conduct report include arm-wrestling competitions where the winning new member faces an active, a spelling bee on “fratty” words, a ropes course activity and most notably going into an empty field where new members are told they’ll be left for the night. 

Page 7 of UK’s student conduct report describes new members of FarmHouse being taken to a field during the “Camp Out” and told to start a fire with “wet firewood, two packs of raw hot dogs, water, and a lit cigarette.”

The field was several hundred yards away from the barn area and all cell phones were taken, excluding two members’ phones this particular semester due to medical conditions, according to the conduct report. The new members were then left with “wet firewood, two packs of raw hot dogs, water, and a lit cigarette, and are told to start a fire.” No further information was given if the fire was complete. 

While in the field, an active member, or an “older active” in fall 2021, acts as a “secret pledge” pretending to be a new member. The “secret pledge” has a cell phone for emergency purposes.

During the new members’ time in the field, active members leave to eat at a local restaurant, a Mexican restaurant 15-20 minutes away at this particular event. Two or three active members were said to be back on the farm near the barn area at this time.

Once back from dinner, the active members quizzed the new members on one another, lining them up shoulder to shoulder alphabetically by last name. The new members were not allowed to look up or directly at the active members. 

According to page 8 of UK’s student conduct report, new members were lined up and yelled at while they were “not permitted to look directly at the actives.”

Active members were described in the UK Office of Student Conduct report to be yelling at the new members while answering questions. If the new members answered incorrectly, the active members said they would leave and not be back until morning. 

Despite saying so, active members returned 15-20 minutes later sharing “personal stories of brotherhood” and expectations for their chapter membership. During this time, a new member had an “adverse reaction” and was described to have really bad anxiety and crying.

Also at their time at the camp out, new members perform trust falls from the bed of a pickup truck, with the expectation that all new members participate and are to catch the member falling.

New members participated in a “trust fall from the bed of a pickup truck” during the “Camp Out,” according to page 8 of UK’s student conduct report.

The fall 2021 camp out concluded with active members buying the new members Cook Out. They returned the next morning in the time frame of 3 a.m. to 4 p.m. based on card access information from the residence hall rooms of new members, all according to conduct investigation.

‘Scavenger Hunt’

In early October, another semesterly activity known as the Scavenger Hunt takes place, the event beginning at 8 p.m. and ending around midnight. New members are given 31 tasks and must complete 27 to “successfully” complete the hunt.

Details of FarmHouse’s new member “Scavenger Hunt” are outlined on pages 8 and 9 of UK’s student conduct report.

Such expectations in the 2021 hunt pertained to consumption of alcohol and substances that new members were tasked with, including shotgunning a beer with a homeless person, drinking an entire bottle of hot sauce and 40 ounces of beer and putting a whole can of dip in their mouths, according to the conduct report. 

Additional acts referenced criminal activity and vandalism involving flipping a porta-potty while a new member was inside, spray painting “F 21” on something, stealing a shopping cart and kidnapping an active member.

Other tasks on the list were catching a wild animal, getting a girl to slap them in the face, delivering a bra to an active member and taking a picture in a cop car. 

The new members were required to send picture or video proof to the chapter through GroupMe. If the required number was not met, the new member had to participate in PT the next morning at 6 a.m. 

Chapter officers said the scavenger hunt had been happening for a “long time” and described it as “psychological” for the new members because of the required tasks, according to the student conduct investigation.

Pledge Roles

During the new member process, each pledge is given a “role” or “job” chosen by the active members of the fraternity. The new member educator assigns the granted roles after a chapter meeting. 

Page 10 of UK’s student conduct report outlines roles assigned to FarmHouse pledges.

Notable pledge roles have included the “Brick Pledge,” where the new member was required to take a brick and walk it as a dog around the chapter facility, and “Jorts Pledge,” where the new member wore a pair of jean shorts that were cut shorter after chapter meetings. 

Hazelwood’s role was redacted from the conducted report but said to provide “summary of the video to the active members. Meant to be satirical and funny.”

In contradiction to what new members said in the conduct report, active members said the new members were able to choose their desired role.

‘PT’

New members were required to attend “PT” sessions during the semester at the chapter facility, in the third-floor lounge. PT is not explicitly defined in the conduct investigation but involves actions ts of physical activity, particularly sit-ups, push-ups, wall sits and running. 

Times of participation were at 8 p.m. after chapter meetings, others at 6 a.m. before classes; new members would be quizzed on information pertaining to the fraternity’s new member education program. If they answered correctly, sessions would end early. 

PT was said to have not occurred this semester despite contradicting statements from new and active members. 

The chapter’s executive committee had made the decision to remove PT when conversing about the removal of some chapter activities but ultimately it was not, according to the investigation.

Additional new member requirements

Additional requirements for new members involved interviews and signatures from the active members “in order to get to know the active members better.” 

The new members carried books to write down the information after an interview and received a signature to show the task was completed. 

In some instances, new members have been required to complete tasks such as laundry, cleaning dishes, giving a ride or picking up food for an active member to earn an interview. 

New members earned points for interviews, contributing to the point system in place to “encourage new members to participate in chapter events and to encourage new members to complete interviews with active members.”

Varying amounts of points were to be earned depending upon the week, the first being 30, second being 70 and next 115. The points were built after each week but the amounts were arbitrary; “it is just what has been done for years,” according to the conduct report.

The number to achieve was 315, but officers and active members said there were no consequences for not achieving such a number.

New members were required to pay $250 in social dues, while some seniors paid $150 at a discounted rate, or not at all. The dues were used to fund off-campus events, some being used to purchase alcohol for their fraternity parties, according to the conduct report. These were additional fees outside the normal chapter dues.

According to page 12 of UK’s student conduct report, “social dues totaled $250.00 per new member.”

The fraternity was estimated to have had four or five unregistered events with alcohol during the fall 2021 semester, one being “Bid-Day” where new members were being welcomed into the chapter. 

New members were tasked with duties including but not limited to: setting up, making drinks, sober monitors, bouncers, bartenders and cleaning up.

Discussions and findings

The investigation found FarmHouse Fraternity’s behavior may be constituted as hazing. FarmHouse was found in violation of specific regulations including forced consumption of food, alcohol or drugs or other controlled substances, creation of unnecessary fatigue, personal servitude, physical or psychological shocks and forced wearing of apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste.

The highlighted items on Page 13 of UK’s student conduct report indicate FarmHouse Fraternity’s “violations of Administrative Regulation 6:10: University of Kentucky Hazing Prevention Policy.”

Also found in the conduct report were degrading or humiliating games and activities, kidnapping or abandonment, line-ups and berating, undue interference with academic pursuits and expectation of participation in activities that are illegal, lewd or in violation of university policy.

Pages 13 and 14 of UK’s student conduct report summarize actions of FarmHouse Fraternity in violation of Administrative Regulation 6:10: University of Kentucky Hazing Prevention Policy.

Officers in the fraternity failed to prevent acts of hazing and were actively engaging with the new member activities, according to the conduct report.

It was also during a conversation among the chapter’s executive committee whether or not activities including the camp out, scavenger hunt and PT would continue. 

The conduct report concludes this particular conversation stipulates the committee knew they were not complying with university policy and rather continued to facilitate these activities.