UF fraternity chapter suspended following allegations of improper behavior

By David Williams
FOX 35 News
 
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -- A national fraternity has issued a public apology on behalf of their chapters at the University of Florida and another university in Georgia following allegations that some of their members engaged in questionable behavior while visiting a Florida Panhandle resort.

Members of the UF chapter of Zeta Beta Tau, along with fraternity members from the Emory University chapter, are under investigation regarding an alleged incident between several members of the two chapters and veterans of the Warrior Beach Retreat, that were said to have occurred during independent trips to Panama City Beach. Chapter operations at UF are suspended and three members have been expelled from the fraternity until that investigation is closed, a spokesperson for the organization said.

"It was just a total disrespect of our nation's finest," said Linda Cope, founder and president of Warrior Beach Retreat, Inc., which serves as a retreat to honor war veterans. "Urinating on the flag is to me the worst. Spitting on a wounded warrior service dog is bad. Picking fights with these men who have done nothing to provoke anything," she said of the allegations leveled against fraternity members.

"While the details of their actions are still under investigation, there is no doubt that some of our members engaged in ugly and unacceptable behavior," said Andrea R. Smithson, communications coordinator for Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, in a statement sent to FOX 35. "Their actions have no place in ZBT or anywhere, and they will not be tolerated. I am deeply saddened that the actions of our members ruined this special event and failed to show the respect our military and their families so deserve."

UF president, Kent Fuchs sent a letter of apology to Warrior Beach Retreat on Wednesday, saying the university is investigating and will make every effort to take appropriate action. Emory University officials have also stated that they are appalled to learn of alleged "disrespect and harassment" of war veterans.

Laketown Wharf, where the alleged incidents occurred, said they had a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior, particularly the harassment of guests.

"Laketown Wharf was honored to host the Wounded Warrior Beach Retreat. These brave veterans deserve the highest level of respect and we want them to enjoy their vacation time here," said Paul Wohlford, Vice President of Business Development.

Both the UF and Emory chapters of ZBT thanked veterans intently for their service and said that if individuals violated their membership standards or values, they would be immediately kicked out of the fraternity.

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