NEW YORK (Nov. 15)
The Florida regional office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith expressed dissatisfaction and concern today over the lack of forthright action by a student disciplinary body against two Greek letter fraternities whose members engaged in an anti-Semitic assault on a predominantly Jewish fraternity house on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville last Friday.
Arthur Teitelbaum, the ADL’s Southern Area director, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a telephone interview from Miami that the ADL has renewed its call to university and state educational authorities to conduct independent investigations into the incident and take appropriate measures.
He identified the offending fraternities as the Sigma Phi Epsilon and Kappa Alpha. According to Teitelbaum, about 100 students, most of them members of the two fraternities, massed outside the largely Jewish Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity house Friday jeering and shouting anti-Semitic epithets.
Some of the students assaulted the house, destroying a fence and damaging shrubbery and other property. They were dispersed by campus police. Teitelbaum said the ADL called immediately for the suspension of the students involved and revocation of the charters of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Kappa Alpha.
Teitelbaum said that according to initial reports, 23 of the students are members of Sigma Phi and 46 belong to Kappa Alpha. The Interfraternity Judicial Council which met last night, found the two fraternities as such innocent of anti-Semitic action. But it found both houses guilty of “provocative acts and unfraternal action that has brought discredit on the fraternity system.” It suspended their fraternal activities for four months, exclusive of initiations. This means they cannot engage in rushes, inter-mural activities or alumni events for the final quarter of the current term. The Council found individual students guilty of “misconduct” and forwarded their names to the university administration. According to Teitelbaum, this amounts to dismissal of the incident as a “student prank.” In a statement read to the JTA, the ADL said:
“We are deeply concerned that the Inter-fraternity Judicial Council did not see fit to mention the issue of anti-Semitism in its decision with regard to the individuals who were involved in the assault on the Tau Epsilon Phi house. Given the large number of fraternity members involved in the assault, given the prior history of anti-Semitic incidents involving fraternity members and given the seriousness of the November 10 incidents, we feel it is not sufficient for the Interfraternity Judicial Council to be allowed to conduct the sole review of this matter.”
The ADL repeated its call to university president Robert Q. Marston to order a “detailed investigation” and again asked E.T. York, Chancellor of the State University System, and Ralph Turlington, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, to carefully review the reports of the incident by university officials and the actions they take.
EARLIER ASSAULTS RECOUNTED
Teitelbaum said the ADL’s concern was heightened by the fact that the assault on the Tau Epsilon house was the second anti-Semitic incident on the Gainesville campus in recent weeks. He said that on Oct. 7, Sigma Phi Epsilon members hurled anti-Semitic epithets at Tau Epsilon members during a football game. As a result, Sigma Epsilon was temporarily deprived of its block-seating privileges in the football stadium.
Teitelbaum was unable to say what may have prompted the outbreak of anti-Semitism on the Gainesville campus. He said, however, that it appeared to be symptomatic of the growing incidence of seemingly unrelated anti-Semitic acts in various parts of the state where there has been an upsurge of Ku Klux Klan activity.
He recalled that a few months ago, an Orthodox Jewish student was beaten up and thrown into a lake at the University of Miami and that several weeks earlier a cross was burned in front of the Jewish community center at Newport Richey, Fla. He said there has also been a rash of synagogue desecrations in the state.
The University of Florida at Gainesville is one of the largest campuses of the State University System. Teitelbaum could not give exact figures for the campus Jewish population, but estimated it at several thousand. There is a large B’nai B’rith Hillel center on the campus to serve Jewish students.