GAINESVILLE, Fla. ― A University of Florida fraternity has been suspended after reports that some of its members harassed wounded military veterans vacationing recently in Panama City Beach.
The Gainesville Sun reports that Zeta Beta Tau fraternity has been charged by the university with offenses including yelling and spitting at vets last weekend. UF said the university has charged the fraternity with “causing physical or other harm, obscene behavior, public intoxication, theft and damage to property.”
An investigation by school officials is ongoing. Panama City Police responded to the incident and no charges were filed. UF policies establish standards of conduct for individuals and organizations, and the university said in a statement that officials are addressing the situation through appropriate channels.
The school said the fraternity is currently on probation for hazing during the fall semester and as a result faces stiffer penalties if found to be in violation of that probation.
Three students have been expelled from the fraternity since the Panama City Beach incident was reported.
“I am personally offended and disappointed by the behavior that has been described to me,” Student Affairs Vice President Dave Kratzer, also a retired U.S. Army major general and combat veteran, said in a statement released by the school. “This is not representative of our students or of the university.”
A UF statement went on to say that it prides itself on serving the veteran community and will be “using this opportunity as a teaching moment.” UF President Kent Fuchs, UF’s dean of students and UF’s director of sorority and fraternity affairs have reached out to apologize to Warrior Beach Retreat founder Linda Cope and the individual veterans who reported the incident.
The ZBT chapter and the national organization also have apologized. The national office has placed the organization on interim suspension awaiting the conclusion of a full investigation.
The Collegiate Veterans Society, a UF student organization, has reached out to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity to propose a restorative justice meeting, and the Collegiate Veterans Success Center on campus hosted discussions with veterans to talk through the situation. Kratzer also will contact local veterans groups, and a team from UF and ZBT will offer to attend each group’s meetings to hear concerns.