A University of Florida fraternity is under investigation after its members reportedly spit on military veterans and urinated on their flags.
The Zeta Beta Tau fraternity was reportedly in Panama City Beach, Florida, last weekend for spring break, staying at the Laketown Wharf Resort. A group of veterans were also staying at the resort for the sixth annual Warrior Beach Retreat, an event held for wounded veterans and their families.
During their stay at the retreat, Zeta Beta Tau members, along with female companions, reportedly mocked and spit on the veterans and their service dogs, and urinated on their American flags.
Linda Cope, the founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat and mother of a wounded Iraq vet, said the incident was unlike anything she’d ever seen. “In all of my years, I’ve never seen such debauchery and disrespect,” she said.
No arrests were made, and no police report filed, but University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs received a letter from Cope detailing the disturbing incident. She received a response from Fuchs on Wednesday.
“I want to make clear that I am deeply sorry for the affront that our students may have caused,” Fuchs said. “I want to assure you that it is not representative of our students or our university, and we will make every effort to learn more, take appropriate action and prevent similar incidents from occurring again.”
Janine Sikes, assistant vice president for media affairs at the school, said in a statement that administration has cooperated fully with an ongoing investigation into the incident. “The University of Florida is extremely concerned about allegations, specifically of illegal behavior with our students,” Sikes said. “We’re taking this matter [very] seriously and opened an investigation to determined what happened and what we need to do in response.”
The UF chapter of Zeta Beta Tau — which is on probation until December while the investigation is underway — issued a letter to Cope and the Warrior Beach Retreat announcing their intention to expel the students responsible for the harassment.
“As a Fraternity, we have a ZERO tolerance policy for such behaviors, and those found guilty will be expelled,” the letter read. “The deeds described on both social media and in letters to our University are completely against our Fraternity’s values and ideas and those that have failed to respect those values will not be welcomed anymore.” The fraternity also offered to contribute financially to the retreat in order to allow for more veterans to participate in coming years.
“We’re going to let them do that,” Cope said. “I’m thinking of different ideas because we could really use some fundraisers.”
Cope said her biggest hope is that students learn from the incident, and become more respectful and responsible members of society.
“To every action, there is a reaction and a consequence,” she said. “They don’t need to take in vain the sacrifice these men and women have given for them to have the freedoms they have.”