A University of Florida fraternity was suspended Friday after some of its members carried out a drunken attack on veterans, including a disabled one, while on a spring break trip.
The scandal started last weekend, when members of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) from Florida as well as Emory University went to the Laketown Wharf Resort in Panama City while it was hosting the Warrior Beach Retreat, a biannual event intended to honor veterans. While there, fraternity members apparently became severe drunk and began to act out in various ways. Witnesses say the boys ripped American flags off of cars and urinated on them, while also hurling verbal abuse at veterans, throwing beer at them, and in some cases apparently even spitting on them.
Nicholas Connole, a disabled veteran, says the boys spit on both him and his service dog.
“I come and I feel honored and I feel safe and that I belong, but now I feel like I’m defending myself,” Connole told local news station WJHG.
Warrior Beach Retreat founder Linda Cope compared the treatment to how some returning veterans were treated by Vietnam War protesters.
The suspension is somewhat superfluous, as ZBT has already suspended operations voluntarily in response to the scandal. However, the charges the school has brought against the fraternity for obscene behavior, destruction of property, and theft could lead to a harsher penalty for the house, including a suspension lasting many years.
According to the Associated Press, the fraternity has taken a proactive response on the scandal. Besides suspending operations, the fraternity has also already expelled three members for the roll they played in events. Laurence Bolotin, a Florida alum and ZBT’s national executive director, said in a statement that as more participants are identified, more punishments will be meted out.
“We have reached out to start a dialogue with the Warrior Beach Retreat and to offer whatever assistance we can to rectify this awful situation,” he said.
Emory’s chapter of ZBT is under investigation as well, though currently there is no evidence implicating that chapter’s members in the outrageous behavior.
The outrageous behavior in Panama City is only the latest bit of bad press for fraternities to make the national news in recent weeks. Less than two months ago, Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma was summarily shut down after members were caught on video singing a racist song. At North Carolina State University, a frat was disbanded after a pledge book filled with racist and sexist remarks became public knowledge. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Alpha Delta fraternity, the inspiration for the famous frat comedy Animal House, was de-recognized for branding some of its members in violation of rules meant to prevent hazing.
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