UF could expel Zeta Beta Tau over harassment of wounded veterans – Gainesville Sun
The fraternity has been charged with several offenses as a part of the university’s formal investigation into “allegations of disturbing behavior toward veterans,” officials said in a news release issued Friday afternoon.
The university has charged the fraternity with “causing physical or other harm, obscene behavior, public intoxication, theft and property damage.” ZBT is suspended from all activities pending the outcome of a complete investigation.
“I am personally offended and disappointed by the behavior that has been described to me,” said David Kratzer, a retired U.S. Army general and UF vice president of student affairs. “This is not representative of our students or of the university.”
Since the incident in Panama City Beach was reported, three students have been expelled from the fraternity, with a promise that more disciplinary action will be taken if the fraternity finds out others were responsible.
Because the fraternity is already on probation, it faces stiffer penalties if found to be in violation, including expulsion.
Veterans attending the biannual Warrior Beach Retreat at the Laketown Wharf Resort said frat members attending a spring social from both UF and Emory University Friday night tore through the parking lot, ripping flags off veterans’ cars, insulted vets, spat on them, threw beer bottles off the balcony and were stopped short of urinating on a flag.
“I hope the university hands out the most severe discipline and makes an example of these spoiled little boys,” combat veteran and Gainesville resident Burt Oliver said. “Is that how a frat makes good men?”
Media reports of the fraternity’s behavior toward the veterans have gone viral nationally, leading to threats to the frat that raised concerns for their members’ safety. University Police Department officers have been stationed at the frat house, UF President Kent Fuchs said Friday.
“There have been threats and I am concerned. I don’t want the bad behavior by some students to escalate into bad behavior by others,” Fuchs said.
Panama City Beach police responded to a call last Friday, but let the resort management handle the situation. Management threw the students off the resort property Saturday. No police report was filed.
After receiving emails from people who attended the retreat describing the acts, Fuchs sent an apology to Warrior Beach Retreat founder Linda Cope, promising a full investigation to determine what happened and whether disciplinary action will be taken.
“I wanted her personally to know that we as an institution felt deeply as well that mistreating vets is unacceptable,” Fuchs said Friday.
He said the university would use the incident to teach students that all individuals deserve respect, including veterans.
Emory University officials said it appears that no Emory students were involved in the abuse of veterans. “To date, no evidence has been found to implicate Emory students in these reported incidents,” Emory said. “If any members of our community are identified as being responsible, they will be held accountable for their actions by the university.”
The UF chapter of ZBT apologized to retreat organizers, saying it is cooperating with the UF misconduct investigation. The organization has suspended campus operations pending the outcome of the investigation.
“Individuals found to have violated our membership standards or our values will be removed from the organization effective immediately,” the letter said. “Please understand that the actions of a few individuals are not representative of our Fraternity as a whole.”
Laurence Bolotin, executive director of Zeta Beta Tau International, said in a prepared statement that three UF students have been expelled from the chapter. The national organization has also placed the chapter on interim suspension.
“We are committed to fully addressing the events that took place and will be hiring an independent investigator to help us gather all of the facts,” Bolotin said. “Short-term, we are actively working with the resort, with the presidents of both universities and with the local police to fully understand the events that took place.”
Bolotin also apologized for the fraternity members’ actions, adding that the fraternity has a zero tolerance policy for such behavior and is “committed to appropriately disciplining any members of our Fraternity who were involved.”
Bolotin said he is working with the fraternity members to “make amends for this disgraceful situation by identifying opportunities to serve those who have done so much to serve us.”
Last December, the UF chapter of Zeta Beta Tau was put on conduct probation with restrictions after the Greek Conduct Committee ruled the chapter was responsible for a hazing incident during the fall 2014 semester.
Dean of Students Jen Day Shaw concurred that the fraternity violated the student conduct code on hazing and modified the sanction restrictions. The fraternity was “deemed not in good standing with the University,” had all privileges revoked, and was barred from representing UF in any capacity.
In addition, Shaw said the fraternity must have an alumni member present at all new brother events, not have more than three events a week, and not have them between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The fraternity also was told to have a guest speaker talk about anti-hazing in the spring and another guest speaker talk about time management in the fall.
The fraternity also was assigned a conduct mentor to help the organization complete the sanctions by the imposed deadlines. Failing to adhere to the sanction deadlines would result in an extension of their probation status and extension of restrictions and loss of privileges.
The Collegiate Veterans Society has contacted the fraternity to propose a “restorative justice meeting,” and the Collegiate Veterans Success Center held discussions with veterans on campus about the incident.
“In the days and weeks ahead, I assure you that the University of Florida will address this immediate situation as well as reinforce the long term commitment to community service and respect for others that have always been hallmarks of the University of Florida community,” Kratzer said in the statement.