bernie_machen_copy.jpgGAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A University of Florida fraternity has been reprimanded by the school's president for what he called a "hateful incident'' directed at a black female student.

President Bernie Machen sent a letter on Monday to the members of Alpha Tau Omega regarding the Sept. 26 incident.


The Gainesville Sun ( reports a member of the fraternity who yelled racial slurs and sexual comments at a black female student as she walked by on the opposite side of the street.


Machen acknowledged that the organization and several students had apologized to the student who was insulted but said “it will take hard work and positive action to live up to the values” of UF and to Alpha Tau Omega policies.


The incident took place around 1:30 a.m. Sept. 26, when a frat member sitting on the front porch of the faternity's house jeered at the young woman as she walked by on the opposite side of the street, said Jen Day Shaw, dean of students at UF. There were several witnesses, but only one frat member told the offending brother to stop acting that way, she said.


The young woman came across the street and told the offender that his behavior was inappropriate, Shaw said.


 “She came back across the street and told the guys, 'You're being ridiculous and this isn't the way we act here,' ” Shaw said.


The student, a senior who is very involved on campus, reported the incident the next day, placing blame only on the student and not the fraternity.


As reprehensible as his behavior was, it is protected by the First Amendment as free speech, Shaw said, so it would be illegal to sanction or punish him.


“So we combat that with intervention at the house, with the staff from multicultural and diversity affairs,” she said.


“The good thing about this is they took responsibility for disciplining him and in coming up with how we make this a better place.”


Alpha Tau Omega is not the first fraternity at UF to draw negative attention in recent years.


The UF Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon was shut down in January for “numerous” unspecified conduct violations, and two other fraternities were suspended for three years each following misdemeanor charges in separate hazing incidents involving paddles or striking pledges.