A University of Florida fraternity is under investigation after members spit on and took flags from wounded veterans on 24 April. Zeta Beta Tau also announced that it had expelled three of its members for the incident, the Associated Press reported.
According to USA Today, Zeta Beta Tau members from the University of Florida and Emory University were in Panama City Beach during the weekend of 18 April for their spring formal. The fraternity was staying at the Laketown Wharf Resort, where a group of veterans were staying for their Warrior Beach Retreat.
Linda Cope, founder of the retreat, told reporters that members of the University of Florida chapter of the fraternity urinated on American flags, picked on veterans, and spit on them and their service dogs. "In all of my years, I've never seen such debauchery and disrespect," Cope said.
Cope added that the woman accompanying the fraternity members acted just as bad. The retreat director reported the incident to UF President W Kent Fuchs, assistant vice president for media affairs Janine Sikes told USA Today. Fuchs sent Cope an apology email on 22 April.
"I want to make clear that I am deeply sorry for the affront that our students may have caused," Fuchs wrote. "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."
The AP reported that Zeta Beta Tau executive director Laurence Bolotin announced on 24 April that three of its members had been expelled for their involvement in the incident. Bolotin wrote Cope an apology saying that the Emory, UF and international headquarters were co-operating with the investigations and that the two chapters had placed themselves under suspension.
The UF chapter is under probation until 19 December 2015. It too wrote to the retreat and its veteran participants to offer apologies and financial assistance to the retreat, USA Today reported.
"As a fraternity, we have a ZERO tolerance policy for such behaviours, and those found guilt will be expelled," the letter said. "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 any more."
Cope said she has yet to hear from the Emory chapter of the fraternity.
The students involved may also face hate crime and battery charges, Gainesville lawyer Geoffrey Mason told USA Today. The university has not yet determined the penalties the fraternity or its former members will receive.