A former freshman at the University of Arizona is suing the college, the Arizona Board of Regents, Theta Chi Fraternity and more than a dozen fraternity chapter leaders, claiming he was subjected to brutal hazing involving broken glass and hot sauce, which left him with infections.
Hayden Roletter, 20, from California, filed a 33-page complaint against the defendants last week, alleging negligence, battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of Title IX protections for students, and seeking $1million in damages.
According to the lawsuit, Roletter enrolled in the University of Arizona as a freshman in 2018 and the following spring pledged the Theta Chi’s fraternity chapter on campus, known as Beta Iota.
Former freshman Hayden Roletter, 20, is suing the University of Arizona (pictured), the Arizona Board of Regents, Theta Chi Fraternity and 13 of its members for $1million over hazing
The complaint alleges that in April 2019, Roletter and other students pledging Theta Chi’s chapter on UA’s campus were subjected to beatings, forced to exercise on broken glass and trash, and had anti-Semitic slurs hurled at them
His complaint, obtained by Courthouse News, alleges that 13 chapter officers and existing members subjected him and the other pledges to ‘physical abuse… threats of violence, forced calisthenics, degrading and anti-Semitic verbal abuse, acts of servitude, forced interviews, prevention and deprivation of sleep and study time, and other conduct threatening the health and safety…’
The court filing describes in detail a fraternity meeting that took place on the night of April 12, 2019, during which Roletter was allegedly forced to exercise on broken glass and foul-smelling trash, was beaten, forced to eat hot sauce and had his phone taken away.
According to the complaint, in the midst of the ‘hazing,’ fraternity member Tyler Austin filled a shot glass with El Yucateco Habanero Sauce and splashed it in Roletter’s eyes from inches away, causing the pledge to scream in pain and drop to the ground.
The hot sauce has a rating of over 5,000 units on the Scoville scale, which measures the spiciness of chili peppers.
The lawsuit contends that the fraternity members failed to seek medical help for Roletter’s injuries and carried on with the hazing acts – including exercises on broken glass and trash – after he was forced to leave the bathroom, where he spent 15 minutes rinsing out his burning eyes.
Roletter’s lawsuit states that one of the fraternity members took a shot glass of the El Yucateco Habanero Sauce and splashed it in his eyes, causing him to drop to the ground in pain
As a result of his treatment at the hands of the fraternity members, according to the complaint, Roletter suffered infections in his blood and eyes, blurry vision, scarring, and cuts to his palms and elbows requiring medical attention.
On top of his physical injuries, the California native also ‘suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, anxiety, depression, embarrassment and fear of retaliation by other fraternity members,’ the complaint alleges.
In the wake of the April incident, Roletter never completed his freshman year at UA because of his injuries, and also out of fear for his safety. He later transferred to another college.
According to the lawsuit, the constitution and bylaws of Theta Chi state that ‘the Fraternity prohibits all physical hazing, paddling, uncalled-for humiliation and public display in connection with Pledge education and pre-initiatory activities.’
In 2015, UA’s chapter of Theta Chi was banned from campus for four years over hazing violations in which pledges were struck with paddles during initiation activities.
Just months after the April incident, in November 2019, the University of Arizona and Theta Chi revoked the Beta Iota chapter’s recognition and shut it down after receiving credible reports of hazing.
The loss of recognition is effective through May 2025.
The University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents are being sued for violating Title IX, which states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’
According to the complaint, UA and the Board had knowledge of the ‘dangerous and serious risks facing male students seeking to participate in the educational opportunities and benefits the University provided through Greek life.’