Three members of the University of Florida’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity have been expelled from the campus chapter after they allegedly spit on and hurled beer bottles at veterans attending a retreat at Panama City Beach. Some were apparently seen peeing on veterans’ American flags.
The University of Florida’s Zeta Beta Tau chapter were at the Laketown Wharf Resort in Panama City Beach last weekend to hold their annual spring formal.* Veterans had also convened at the resort for Warrior Beach Retreat, held for about 60 vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Friday, vets say, members of UF’s Zeta Beta Tau chapter were seen spitting on veterans, throwing beer bottles at them from their hotel room balconies, ripping flags off their cars, and insulting them for “wearing caps and T-shirts.” Some Zeta Beta Taus were also apparently seen peeing on American flags.
One vet, Nicholas Connole, told WFTV, “They actually spit on me and my service dog as well, and that’s just so disrespectful and it hurts. I come and I feel honored and I feel safe and that I belong, but now I feel like I’m defending myself.”
Linda Cope, founder of Warrior Beach Retreat, told the the Gainesville Sun that once frat members got “out of control,” she called police and hotel security, who were able to get them to stop. “They apologized to me in person, but only because they got caught,” she said.
The fraternity chapter, the Sun reports, was already on probation at the university—since last fall, for a “hazing incident”—when they allegedly vandalized the veterans’ flags and spit on them. The frat has since suspended operations at the University of Florida. Emory University, whose Zeta Beta Tau chapter also happened to be at the resort that weekend for their spring formal, has launched their own investigation; none of their students have been implicated in the incident.
“The incidents and behavior you and others have described (in letters and phone calls) and the offense to the wounded warriors and other guests are unacceptable,” University of Florida president Kent Fuchs wrote in a letter to Warrior Beach Retreat. “We are pursuing an investigation of the matter to learn more about the involvement of University of Florida students and whether disciplinary action will be needed.”