Writing in the Washington Post, one former Zeta Beta Tau brother from the University of Florida (UF) explains his frustration with the media coverage and investigation into his fraternity, which led to members receiving more than 70 death threats and the dissolution of his chapter.
In April, UF expelled three ZBT members and, in conjunction with the national office, closed the chapter following allegations that brothers spit and threw bottles at a group of wounded veterans at the Panama City Beach. The woman who accused them also said they urinated on the American flag.
Since then, a university and ZBT International Headquarters investigation found no evidence to support the allegations.
The story went viral within three days, and soon members received more than 70 death threats.
"We went from being anonymous college students to being the most hated fraternity in America over allegations that, to us, came completely out of left field," says former ZBT member Jared Blinderman, who notes that many of the students on the trip had family connections to the military.
"We were afraid to sleep in our own house and afraid to wear our letters," Blinderman says.
UF and ZBT "forced" the chapter to deliver a public apology to the accuser, "effectively ending our ability to defend ourselves against these false allegations," Blinderman writes. A statement from ZBT International Headquarters points out that the chapter was on UF probation at the time.
Because UF and ZBT could not ensure the safety of the group, "a joint decision was made with the University to withdraw recognition" of the chapter, according to the statement from ZBT. The ensuing investigation found members acted below ZBT's standards, the statement said.
Blinderman admits one brother accidentally sprayed champagne on veterans 10 floors below their balcony, but says they immediately apologized and the veterans accepted their apology.
"The media is quick to report misconduct in the Greek community such as racism and sexual misconduct, and rightfully so," he writes. "Yet the good we do all too often falls upon deaf ears."
ZBT had the highest GPA on campus and the chapter raised more than $20,000 for children's medical research last year.
"The reputation we've spent years tirelessly constructing was destroyed by a rush to judgment," he says.
On July 6, the school will hold a hearing regarding charges that ZBT members violated the Student Conduct Code. ZBT will remain closed pending a decision at that time (Blinderman, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 6/26).
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