First founded Jewish fraternity closed on UF campus for misconduct toward military vets
The University of Florida chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity was closed last Tuesday, April 28, after a misconduct investigation by the university was started in light of reports that ZBT members attending a spring formal yelled at, spat on, and hurled beer bottles at a group of military veterans who were also staying at the same Panama City Beach resort. The veterans were attending the Warrior Beach Retreat at the Laketown Wharf to relax and heal.
After receiving the information of the fraternity members’ behavior, the university charged the fraternity with obscene behavior, public drinking, causing physical or other harm, theft and property damage.
“I continue to be saddened and disappointed by the reported mistreatment and disrespect of our military veterans,” said UF President Kent Fuchs in a prepared statement. “Our university has always honored, and will always honor, the service of veterans.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Dave Kratzer, a retired U.S. Army general, said he was disgusted by reports stating the way the students treated military vets and that the university would “deal swiftly with this.”
“In the course of dual investigations, ZBT and the University of Florida have found additional evidence of behavior from some members that falls well below the standards of both organization. While investigators have not yet found conclusive evidence regarding some of the more egregious allegations, it is clear that students made irresponsible decisions and behaved in ways that are unacceptable and disrespectful,” ZBT International Fraternity President Matthew J. Rubins, Kappa (Cornell University) ’90, said in a statement on the Zeta Beta Tau website.
“We are absolutely disgusted by the accusations that have been made regarding the behavior of members of this chapter,” Rubins continued. “ZBT has a long history of serving our country with brothers currently serving in all ranks of the military. ZBT will work diligently to demonstrate that the alleged behavior of a few does not represent the values of the many.”
Linda Cope, founder of the nonprofit Warrior Beach Retreat, said she was pleased with the rapid response of the university and the international fraternity.
Founded as a Jewish organization in 1898 in New York City, it was the world’s first Jewish fraternity. At that time Jews weren’t allowed in fraternities. In 1903, it dropped its religious affiliations, and in 1954 it began admitting members of all faiths. The opening sentence on ZBT’s website shows its pride in its establishment as the first Jewish fraternity. According to “The Brothers” review of fraternities, ZBT is a mostly Jewish fraternity established at UF in 1921. “ZBT consists of members from various backgrounds that are mostly from South Florida and New York. The brothers are generally laid back and intelligent, yet they still enjoy the occasional party or club.”
UF Department of Student Affairs is helping to find alternate housing for students living in the frat house.
According to The Independent Florida Alligator, the university and the fraternity are still continuing the investigation into the incident. Although this incident only involved members of the UF chapter, ZBT chapters on other campuses across the U.S. are feeling the effects of these few members.