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Plea Agreement Bans Student From CSUN

February 17, 2001|ZANTO PEABODY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — A Cal State Northridge student accused of threatening professors pleaded no contest Friday to charges he sought $200 in hush money from another student who was allegedly smoking marijuana.

In a three-way agreement among Gustavo Gutierrez, the court and the university, the student, a senior sociology-Chicano studies major, was sentenced to three years' probation and 30 work days on a Caltrans crew, and was barred from returning to CSUN as a student.

"Under personal protest, I make this plea," Gutierrez, 26, told San Fernando Superior Court Judge Robert J. Schuit.

Gutierrez said later the university presented him with a choice between being suspended from CSUN if he accepted the plea agreement or being banned from attending any Cal State campus if he allowed the case to go to trial. University officials refused comment on the negotiations.

Sides Taken by Faculty and Administration

Gutierrez's criminal case and separate, unrelated accusations that he stalked professors have divided members of the sociology faculty and the university administration. At least three grievances--two by faculty members and one by Gutierrez--have been filed against the administration over the dispute. Some faculty members said the university favored students' rights over staff safety while Gutierrez said administrators protected faculty at his expense.

"It's the cult of the student, in which the student can do no wrong," Professor Lawrence Sneden said after Gutierrez was sentenced. "Students can insult professors and harass them with racism, homophobia, whatever. But professors confront a hostile administration if they try to do something about it."

Sneden has filed a grievance against CSUN for not removing Gutierrez from class after he allegedly threatened professors through his oral and written presentations. The student countered that his references to harsh treatment of gay white men were hypothetical situations in the context of his course work on the treatment of immigrants.

A second sociology professor, Dominic Little, filed a supporting complaint to Sneden's and gathered signatures from department faculty members urging the university to investigate Gutierrez.

The case has strained relations among members of CSUN's student government, the Associated Students, in which Gutierrez served as director of public safety. One student senator filed a complaint with the administration against Gutierrez alleging sexual harassment and called for his removal. Student President Robert Hanff has said he would reserve action until the trial was over.

The criminal case stems from a complaint filed in November by Gutierrez's suite mate, David Gomez, at the University Park Apartments. While serving as a resident advisor in the university-run complex, Gutierrez told Gomez to pay him $200 for not reporting the alleged drug violation, the complaint said.

Only one month before, the Residence Hall Assn. had awarded Gutierrez a "You Make a Difference" certificate for creating a tight-knit community on his floor.

"I had established a record of service and leadership on campus," Gutierrez said. "If I had done all those things I've been accused of, the university would have put its foot down and done something a long time ago."

Gutierrez Accused of Theft by Police

In May, university police charged Gutierrez with theft after he allegedly took a copy of a sociology final out of a classroom. Gutierrez wrote a letter to the vice president of student affairs, William Watkins, alleging Det. Nicole Hanchett had harassed him during the arrest. Police Chief Ronald Seacrist said he never received a formal complaint against the detective.

In September, Hanff appointed Gutierrez liaison between the Associated Students and the campus Police Department.

"That position added to my studies in criminal corrections," Gutierrez said. "It was part of my career goals."

Sneden said he will continue to press his grievance against the university, and Gutierrez said he may press his against its police department. Meanwhile, Gutierrez--who was ordered to stay away from the campus while on probation--said he may apply to other Cal State campuses or the University of California.

"My track record will overshadow any of these allegations," he said.

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