Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Vick Em" T Shirts Create Stir at Texas Tech

Texas Tech Theta Chi chapter suspended for 'Vick 'Em' shirts
By Michelle Casady, Daily Toreador

What started as a fundraiser for the Theta Chi fraternity has ended with the organization's suspension from Texas Tech University.

As a way to raise money for the fraternity, some of its members designed and sold a T-shirt depicting the likeness of Michael Vick hanging Texas A&M University's mascot, Reveille, from a noose.

Vick, a former NFL quarterback, recently pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge.

"I came up with the idea and I drew it," said Scott Klingle, a member of Theta Chi and a senior visual studies major from Victoria, Texas.

Despite the negative press the T-shirt has received, Klingle said, "I'm an artist, that's what I live for. I want my work to be noticed."

Klingle said he is not worried about repercussions.

"There's no reason for me to get in trouble," he said. "It's freedom of speech."

The T-shirts were not designed with the intention of condoning animal cruelty, he said.
"It's all in good fun," Klingle said.

The T-shirts were printed at Blue Cricket Graphics in Lubbock, Texas, and store manager Jose Lopez said printing has been stopped at the request of the Collegiate Licensing Company.

Lopez said because his contract with the university has stipulations that could have resulted in him losing his license, he said he agreed to stop printing the shirt.

In all, Lopez said fewer than 300 "Vick 'Em" T-shirts were printed.

When approached by members of Theta Chi to print the T-shirts, Lopez said he was told half of the proceeds from the sales would go to the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"We gave (the shirts) to them at wholesale price because they were doing this for the game and for animal rights," he said.

Geoffrey Candia, a member of Theta Chi and a sophomore business major from San Antonio, Texas, was the self-proclaimed main contact for obtaining a T-shirt.

However, Robyn Katz, a first-year law student and president of the Tech chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, said she would not accept money from the sale of the T-shirts because of their controversial nature.

"I think that's ridiculous. Because if he actually thinks we're going to take money raised by that, he's ridiculous," she said.

Katz suggested if Candia wanted to do something to promote animal rights he should volunteer his time at the Haven Animal Shelter in Lubbock.

Candia said regardless of which organization is chosen, someone will receive the proceeds.
"If she won't take the money, we won't give it to her," he said. "We'll find someone else to give it to."

During a meeting with the judicial review board Tuesday, Theta Chi took full responsibility for the selling of the T-shirts, Candia said.

"There's no way to dispute that, plain and simple," he said. "Theta Chi was selling the T-shirts."
He said he believes some administrators' desires to completely remove the fraternity from campus was an overreaction.

"But kicking us off campus, the punishment didn't fit the crime," he said.

The review board took away Theta Chi's solicitation privileges and also its ability to post notices on university bulletin boards, pending the judicial outcome. The fraternity also has agreed to donate all proceeds from the T-shirt sales to a charitable organization.

Candia said the total profit of the sales was around $1,100.

In the meeting with the review board, Theta Chi issued a list of seven things it will do as part of an immediate plan of action. They are as follows:
1. Accept full responsibility for actions.
2. Destroy all remaining shirts.
3. Donate all of the proceeds to a local animal shelter or meet with the organization to determine other sources of support the chapter may provide.
4. Make public apology to Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University and the general public.
5. Sponsor an educational training seminar on animal cruelty for university students.
6. The chapter's judicial board will determine an appropriate probation for the individuals responsible for the design and production.
7. Individuals involved in the design and production of the T-shirts will volunteer for related community service in coordination with their probation requirements.

Mike Gunn, assistant director of the Student Union and Activities, said the organization's members knew they were in violation of the university's solicitation policy before they sold the T-shirts on campus.

Members of the fraternity initially tried to go through traditional channels to receive permission to sell the T-shirts on campus, Gunn said.

After the students realized they could not get approved, Gunn said he offered them suggestions on how to change their design to get approval ­-- recommendations that apparently went unheeded.

"I happened to be at RaiderGate, where people were wearing the shirts, and I told them they were in violation of university policy," he said. "The person who said he was selling the shirts illegally admitted it in front of me and two deputy sheriffs."

Tech officials, including President Jon Whitmore and Athletic Director Gerald Myers, issued statements condemning the Vick 'Em T-shirts. Both mentioned that the T-shirts in no way reflect the goals of the university.

The Vice President for Student Affairs at A&M, Dean Bresciani, issued a statement also.
"We thank ... the Texas Tech administrators for their response and action regarding this matter," he said in the release.

The Saddletramps have become involved with the conflict resolution as well.

"If someone has a Vick 'Em shirt and doesn't want to be associated with that, we'll give them one of our Wreck 'Em Tech shirts for free," said Jonathan Merritt, president of the Saddle Tramps and a senior personal financial planning major from Corpus Christi.

Merritt said the Saddle Tramps will be in front of the Student Union Building Thursday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. to exchange the T-shirts.

"We want to help promote school spirit instead of promoting something negative," he said.
(C) 2007 Daily Toreador