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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A UF sorority party trashes the Columbia in Ybor City
Zeta Tau Alpha becomes persona non grata.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published October 25, 2007
TAMPA -- Vomit. Bar fights. Broken toilets. Sloppy drunkenness.
It seems a visit by a University of Florida sorority to the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City earlier this month turned into a scene that would appall Miss Manners, and now the Gainesville sorority chapter could face discipline.
About 250 UF students -- Zeta Tau Alpha members and their dates -- traveled from Gainesville to the historic restaurant the night of Oct. 11 for a semiformal date night. By the time Columbia staff kicked them out, the group had vomited throughout the restaurant, engaged in fights, trashed a restroom, and stolen liquor from the bar, according to catering manager Caroline O'Connor.
She declined to comment further when reached by the Times Wednesday, but made her displeasure clear in an e-mail to UF president Bernie Machen.
"The group turned our 102-year-old fine dining restaurant into a frat house," she wrote. "I feel the entire group should be disciplined in some manner."
O'Connor told Machen that 80 percent of the students, many of them underage, arrived at the restaurant drunk. Guys in the group broke a restroom toilet and baby changing table and ripped a handle off the entrance door.
When a fight broke out between some members of the group, she called police to break it up.
"The police breaking up a fight in our restaurant is something we have never had happen, and we are extremely disappointed in the behavior of your students," O'Connor wrote.
According to Tampa police records, officers were called to the restaurant at 10:09 p.m. They didn't take a report, but officers who responded to the scene found "two white men about to start a fight," according to the call log.
UF spokesman Steve Orlando said the national office of Zeta Tau Alpha is investigating the matter, as is UF's office of Greek affairs. The chapter has not yet been disciplined but could face sanctions, he said. In fall 2002, the chapter had a party involving alcohol that was not registered with UF's Greek affairs office, Orlando said. UF placed it on probation for spring of 2003.
In the meantime, UF administrators called the restaurant to apologize.
Chapter officials could not be reached, but the Web site for the 58-year-old sorority chapter brags: "At Zeta Tau Alpha our social calendars are always full. From the classy to the crazy, Zetas know how to party with style."
Times staff writer Abbie VanSickle contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403.