College fraternities accused of disrespecting wounded veterans - CBS46 News

College fraternities accused of disrespecting wounded veterans

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Some serious accusations are being made about the way that a group of Emory University students behaved on a trip they made down to Panama City Beach, Florida, but they're telling CBS46 in written statements that they had nothing to do with that incident.

It was supposed to be an honor for wounded veterans at the Warrior Beach Retreat in Florida.

But the veterans' event took a bad turn when some college students staying at the same resort didn't show the veterans the respect they deserve.

"They're a total disgrace for our military. They were urinating on the American flag. They were throwing things off of the balcony," said Linda Cope of Warrior Beach Retreat.

"They actually spit on me and my service dog as well," said wounded veteran Nicholas Connole.

Students from the University of Florida are now being held accountable, with the president of the school issuing a public apology.

But the local chapter here in Atlanta, which was included in the original accusations, said none of its members were a part of this incident.

Emory's Zeta Beta Tau fraternity tells CBS46 they were shocked to learn of what they call "atrocious acts."

In a statement they added, "The reported incidents are deplorable. No one - least of all our veterans - should be subjected to such egregious behavior."

Similarly, representatives from the school issued a statement reading in part, "To date, no evidence has been found to implicate Emory students in these reported incidents. If any members of our community are identified as being responsible, they will be held accountable for their actions by the university."

Linda Cope of the Warrior Beach Retreat responded to that statement, insisting, "There were too many students there from Emory for none of them to be involved. It is hard for me to believe that no Emory student was a part of this."

Right now the national ZBT fraternity is saying all the local chapter's activities at Emory are suspended while they investigate.

Panama City Beach police say the problem was handled by private security at the Laketown Wharf Resort and they are the only authority that has official information about what really happened out there.

CBS46 put in a request for the incident report that supposedly has the names of all the people involved, but we are still waiting to get that.

Listed below are the full statements issued by parties involved in this controversy.

Statement from Laurence Bolotin, Executive Director of Zeta Beta Tau International Regarding Panama City Beach Incident:

Early this week our Fraternity was made aware of reports regarding an incident between several members of two of our chapters and veterans of the Warrior Beach Retreat during independent trips to Panama City Beach. 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. Their actions have no place in ZBT or anywhere, and they will not be tolerated.

On behalf of our entire organization, I want to apologize to veterans, both those who were in Panama City Beach, and those who have felt the pain from afar, as well as to their families and all who support the Warrior Beach Retreat and had worked to make it a positive and meaningful occasion for attendees. 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.

As we continue our investigation, our chapters at the University of Florida and Emory University have suspended all activities and are fully cooperating in our investigation. In addition, we have already expelled three members of the University of Florida chapter from our organization who we found to have been behaving inappropriately, and we will take any further action necessary as we learn more. Our Fraternity also has issued an apology on behalf of all of our members to the Warrior Beach Retreat, the organization that was hosting the veterans to provide them and their families with the opportunity to relax and recharge.

We are honored that hundreds of our ZBT brothers have served in the military and are disgusted that certain members of our Fraternity failed to exhibit the behaviors we expect from them towards our nation's heroes — respect, gratitude and honor.

We are committed to fully addressing the events that took place, and will be hiring an independent investigator to help us gather all of the facts. Short-term, we are actively working with the resort, with the Presidents of both universities and with the local police to fully understand the events that took place. In all instances, we have a zero tolerance policy towards this type of behavior and are committed to appropriately disciplining any members of our Fraternity who were involved.

We also look forward to working with our members to make amends for this disgraceful situation by identifying opportunities to serve those who have done so much to serve us.

Statement from Emory University:

Emory University was appalled to learn of acts of disrespect and harassment that were directed at attendees of the Warrior Beach Retreat in Florida this past weekend.

Our brave veterans who have sacrificed much for our country deserve the utmost respect and appreciation for their service.

The disrespectful behavior exhibited by students toward our veterans is not acceptable and will not be tolerated by members of the Emory community.

When Emory received complaints that students from one of our fraternities might be involved, Campus Life administrators immediately began an investigation. To date, no evidence has been found to implicate Emory students in these reported incidents. If any members of our community are identified as being responsible, they will be held accountable for their actions by the university.

Emory University thanks veterans for the significant contributions they have made to our country, and for exhibiting the values that we hold with great respect within our university community.

Statement from ZBT, Eta Lambda Chapter, Emory University:

The brothers of the Eta Lambda Chapter of ZBT at Emory University were shocked to learn of the atrocious acts that occurred recently during the Warrior Beach Retreat in Florida. The reported incidents are deplorable. No one – least of all our veterans – should be subjected to such egregious behavior.

ZBT deeply appreciates and supports our nation's veterans, who have served so admirably and sacrificed so much to protect the society that we all cherish. We will not tolerate anyone who fails to demonstrate the utmost respect toward our veterans. 

Our fraternity has been accused in the media of involvement in offensive acts on the aforementioned occasion. ZBT has worked in close collaboration with administrators at Emory to conduct a thorough investigation. We have found no evidence that members of our fraternity were involved. If information implicating any member of our organization arises, we will hold those individuals fully accountable.

As a brotherhood, ZBT holds our military veterans in the highest regard for their commitment to safeguarding the freedoms that form the bedrock of this great nation.

Statement from Laketown Wharf Resort:

Laketown Wharf Resort recently hosted The Wounded Warrior Beach Retreat. In a gesture of gratitude for the veterans' service and sacrifice, Laketown Wharf donated $68,000 worth of rooms and meeting space for the event. During this same period, University of Florida and Emory University students belonging to Zeta Beta Tau fraternity were staying at the resort while attending their spring formals.

Some of these students have been accused of engaging in conduct that was disrespectful towards the wounded veterans. Laketown Wharf staff followed corporate policies regarding guest conduct, and local law enforcement responded.

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