Rt.com and wreg.com both report on a disturbing incident involving the University Florida chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and the Warrior Beach Retreat organization. Three members of the Alpha Zeta chapter have already been expelled by the fraternity, and multiple investigations by the university and the national Zeta Beta Tau fraternity are taking place to determine the extent of the problem and whether further action must be taken.
According to a letter written to the the President of the University of Florida, President W. Kent Fuchs, by the founder of Warrior Beach Retreat, Linda Cope, The Warrior Beach Retreat is an organization that sponsors veterans vacationing in Panama City Beach. No information is available on how the harassment began, how the veterans reacted, or how the veterans’ vacation as a whole was affected by the incident.
What’s Happening Now
The UF (University of Florida) chapter of ZBT (Zeta Beta Tau) was already on probation from a hazing incident that occurred during the fall 2014 semester. UF is investigating the fraternity to determine whether members violated the student conduct code again. If that turns out to be the case, it is likely that the fraternity will be expelled from campus. UF has apologized to both Cope and the Warrior Beach Retreat. The following is an excerpt from a letter Fuchs published on Facebook:
The University of Florida is extremely concerned about reports of illegal behavior involving our students last weekend in Panama City. Our policies establish standards of conduct, and we are investigating this matter. We do not yet know the full extent of what transpired. Regardless, we are deeply sorry for any hurt caused to veterans and their families. This is not representative of our students or our university.
The investigation by the University is not the only investigation taking place. The national organization of the ZBT fraternity has also hired an independent investigator to investigate the incident. The ZBT chapters at both UF and Emory University have suspended all activities and are, by all accounts, cooperating fully in the investigations. The national organization may take additional action depending on the results of the investigation. At this time, there seem to be no indications of involvement in the incident by students of Emory University, however, Emory is also investigating the incident to make sure that none of its students was involved.
At the time of the incident, the Panama City Police were called and responded. No charges were filed against the students. The Collegiate Veterans Society, which is a student organization at UF, has reached out to ZBT to work together on a “restorative justice meeting” and are actively working to assist in mediating and helping de-escalate the situation.
It’s important that we let the investigations move forward and that we do not allow our personal feelings to keep escalating the situation. This can be very difficult, especially for those of us with family members who are serving or have served, but retaliation or other escalation of the issue can only hurt more people. University police have been stationed outside of the Florida ZBT house ever since reports of the incident went viral because there has been a significant reason for concern for the chapter members’ safety.
This incident is a symptom of an ever-growing problem among college fraternities. Rt.com provides the following information:
In March, the University of Oklahoma expelled two members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, as well as severing all ties with the chapter after video surfaced of members participating in a racist chant. In December, San Diego State University banned the Gamma Alpha fraternity after members were accused of throwing eggs and waving sex toys at people involved in an anti-rape march on the California campus in November.
Hopefully the fraternity culture is on-course for a change, and the best way for us to help it along is to report cases where members of a fraternity (or any college students) are acting in an inappropriate or disruptive way.