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V-</Volume 93" ^^ No. 28 / April 22,IQ^ftARV
Fraternity faces lawsuits after last year's fire
By Jenny Poole and Chris Anderson
The University Echo
Two people who were injured in last
April's fire at the Sigma Chi fraternity house
are now suing for damages.
Separate lawsuits were fded by both Tobi
Gray and Eric Kirkland on March 5 against
different parts of the Sigma Chi fraternity,
including the Delta Theta chapter at UTC,
the Delta Theta House Corporation and the
Sigma Chi Alumni House Corporation of
Chattanooga. They are suing for
compensatory and punitive damages that
resulted from the April 18, 1998 fire at the
Gray is suing for $12.5 million and
Kirkland is suing for $3.5 million.
Though neither Roger Dickson, who is
representing Kirkland, nor Terry Basista,
who is representing Gray, would comment
on how they reached the monetary amounts
that they were asking for, both offered
details about their client's injuries.
"She (Gray) has severe injuries from
burns over approximately 54 percent of her
body," Basista said. "She has fairly horrific
scaring and considerable discomfort because
of the scars. She has a severe back injury
that is causing her a great deal of difficulty
The remains of the Sigma Chi House after it was destroyed by a fire last April.
at this time. She is doing considerably better,
but she has a long, long road ahead of her.
She will never be fully recovered."
Gray received her injuries when she
leaped from the second story of the fraternity
house after it caught on fire.
Kirkland's attorney offered only that his
client had "sustained some burns and other
According to both of the lawsuits, the
defendants (Sigma Chi) were aware of the
problems associated with the house,
including the "lack of repairs, lack of
sufficient fire escapes, fire alarm apparatus
... or fire extinguishment equipment." The
lawsuits also state that the defendants had
"refused to repair and maintain the Sigma
Chi House so that it was safe and met
Kirkland, who is currently the vice
president of Sigma Chi, lived in the house
at the time that it caught fire. In his suit,
Kirkland said that the "hazards rendered the
Sigma Chi House unfit for human habitation
due to the increased risk of fire." The suit
also says that the defects in the house "were
the direct and proximate cause of Kirkland's
Both Kirkland and Gray have been asked
by their attorneys not to speak about the case.
Since Gray is a former sweetheart of the
fraternity, and Kirkland is the current vice
president, both attorneys said that it was hard
for their clients to file lawsuits.
"Bringing this suit was not something
(Gray) enjoyed doing, but something had to
be done," Basista said. "Accountability helps
keep all of us as safe as we can be at this day
The Sigma Chi fraternity is also slaying
supportive towards their brother.
"There's no animosity towards Eric in
any way," said Sigma Chi president M 'i.irl
Kaplan. "There is a business side and a social
side to every organization."
Playgirl and Playboy removed from bookstore
By Kandi Austin
Playgirl and Playboy magazines are not
available in UTC's bookstore anymore. But
the bookstore manager says if she gets
enough requests, she may restock the
Following a student-led petition drive,
bookstore manager Rene Long removed the
magazines in March.
"It happened while I was on vacation so
I said go ahead and pull [the magazines]."
But Long also said if enough people
wanted the magazines, she might reconsider.
"There may be 400 people out there who
don't want [the magazines] and 800 that do,"
Long said. "I don't want to jeopardize my
relationship on campus unless those 800
come in and say they want it, then I may."
This is the second time the magazines
have been taken out of the bookstore.
Playboy and Playgirl had been sold in
UTC's bookstore for many years before
Long came to UTC, Long said. The
bookstore manager who preceded Long
placed the magazines "under the counter,"
she said. The bookstore stopped selling them
in the last two years because Long believes
students were too embarrassed to ask for the
However, bookstore employees began
getting requests and Long began stocking
the magazines again in late January.
But some students disagree with the
magazines' sale on campus. A petition drive
to remove the publications from the
bookstore began at the beginning of March
when Matthew Amick, Athens, Tenn. junior,
saw the adult magazines displayed. Amick
said he was told by an official in the housing
office that a petition showing students'
protests might help remove the magazines.
Amick was "excited and relieved" when
the publications were removed from the
bookstore. But he said he knows it may not
be permanent. If the magazines are
restocked, he said he will protest again. "
There were several people who didn't
get to sign [the petition] that expressed
interest in it," he said.
Amick said he was embarrassed that
Playboy and Playgirl were sold on his
"When my parents or visitors come, I
don't want them to see that where I go to
school," he said.
Another student agreed with Amick's
"If the University is going to take a stand
against pornography in the computer labs,
and if the bookstore is affiliated with the
University, then they shouldn't sell it in the
bookstore either," said Dan Beery, Oak
Town, Ind., junior.
But other students showed indifference
about the issue.
"I guess it makes us look like a regular
college," said Ivy Underwood, Manchi ster,
Tenn. freshman. "You don't think Knoxville
"I never go in there to get them because
I don't need them. There's better things to
worry about on campus than pornography
being sold on campus," said Andrew
"Skipper" Kelso, Nashville junior.
Other students do not believe that it is
wrong for the publications to be sold in the
"If someone thinks these magazines are
obscene, don't complain to the people who
purchase them," said Jeremy List, Franklin
junior. "Complain to the manufacturer."
"If we're all supposed to be adults, why
can't we make our own decisions? Just
because it's sold doesn't mean we have to
read it," said Jodi Rohling, Knoxville, senior.
ow much do UTC employees make? See pages 10 and 11 for details