Vanderbilt student involved in alleged anti-gay assault says punishment ‘too harsh’

A 17-year-old Vanderbilt sophomore has told InsideVandy.com and The Vanderbilt Hustler, two news sources for the Vanderbilt student community, that the punishment he received from the university in a recent alleged anti-gay assault was “harsher than it needs to be.”

Robert Gutierrez, who hails from New York, told the editor of the publication, Glenna DeRoy, that he received a "long suspension" from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity and will leave campus soon if he chooses not to appeal.  The university does not disclose discipline matters so the suspension can’t be confirmed by Vanderbilt officials. Gutierrez has 10 calendar days to appeal the decision.

The punishment was netted out quickly, with Vanderbilt’s student judicial system acting in less than nine days from when the incident occurring.

Gutierrez told InsideVandy.com that while he was involved in a Sept. 9 fight with the two victims, the attack was not motivated by the fact that they were gay.

"It was just a fight," he said. "That's all I see it as - a fight. People that know me know that describing me as a gay basher just doesn't hold at all."

Gutierrez said that the person he was with – whom he identified as 18-year-old Jonathan Serrano - made the homophobic remarks towards the two victims in the Towers West Quiznos. Serrano, who is not a Vanderbilt student, has not been apprehended and may have fled the state.

Gutierrez said Serrano began hitting the former Divinity School graduate in the head after the victim left the dorm, at which point Gutierrez jumped in.

"I had to have some kind of reaction to it," Gutierrez told InsideVandy.com "Unfortunately, it wasn't the positive reaction of holding him back, but I had to help my friend and saw myself as threatened by them, too."

But in the same interview Gutierrez said that he and Serrano only responded to what they perceived as a threat of physical violence, with one of the two victims coming toward the two suspects with a "raised, clenched fist" and asking if they had a problem.

"I was doing nothing but observing up until the point that guy came up to us," Gutierrez said. "I wasn't even laughing. I could see the guys were getting pissed; I noticed that. But had we not been physically threatened, it never would have reached anything like this."

One of the victims, the man who recently graduated from Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, said Gutierrez bears responsibility for his actions and consequences.

"If Mr. Gutierrez wishes to alter his statement after the fact, the proper venue for doing so is a court of law, where the evidence will show that what occurred was not a fight, but a deliberate and unprovoked assault," he said. "Each defendant had ample time to consider his actions before consciously choosing to lie in ambush and attack an innocent man."

Vanderbilt University has surveillance video which could show the attack.

“When the couple left Towers West they were accosted in what appeared to be a premeditated, unprovoked attack," Vanderbilt’s Dean of Students Mark Bandas told InsidyVandy.com  

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