The University of Florida on Friday suspended a fraternity as it investigates reports that members insulted disabled veterans and desecrated their U.S. flags during a resort retreat.
Three members of the Zeta Beta Tau were already expelled from the fraternity over the incident, which also led the chapter at Emory University in Atlanta to suspended activities, according to a statement by the international fraternity.
The incident marks the latest in a string of controversies over hazing and possible discriminatory behavior by U.S. college fraternities.
“I am personally offended and disappointed by the behavior that has been described to me,” Dave Kratzer, the University of Florida’s student affairs vice president, said in a statement, noting that he is also a retired U.S. Army major general.
The chapter was suspended on an interim basis and faces charges of causing harm, obscene behavior, public intoxication, theft and damage to property, according to the university based in Gainesville.
Zeta Beta Tau International apologized to the veterans in a statement, noting that it has hired an independent investigator to review last weekend’s incident at a northwest Florida resort.
The fraternity chapters were at the resort at the same time as a group of disabled military veterans were attending the Warrior Beach Retreat in Panama City Beach.
The college students, who were drunk, made vulgar remarks to the veterans and their wives, said Linda Cope, who founded the non-profit organization that offers healing retreats to wounded combat veterans and their spouses or caregivers.
The fraternity members broke at least two flags on their cars, she said, and were vomiting and urinating off balconies.
“It was awful. I felt like I was in a war zone and I brought them there to be safe,” she told Reuters in a phone interview, adding that she appreciated the fraternity’s strong response.
Emory University called the acts appalling and said in a statement that it had not found evidence so far that its students were directly involved.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Watch a report on the incident, as aired on WJHG-TV, below.