Former AS director speaks out against associate dean
The recently resigned Director of Student Advocacy, Diana Gutierrez, addressed the Associated Students meeting about a small protest she held on campus last Wednesday which challenged the relationship of A.S. student leaders and the Associate Dean of Student Life, Sonali Bridges. Last Wednesday, Gutierrez and a UCLA student, Areli Rios, appeared outside of the library and in the quad handing out fliers and asking student to sign a petition. The petition asked that a meeting be set up with the vice president and president of SMC to discuss troubles with their duties as directors without the interference of the Bridges or other administrators.
Gutierrez and Rios called to students' attention issues within the campus’ student government that “affect student health and the mental health” of SMC student leaders.
Directly referring to the issue of mental health, a social media post uploaded on Wednesday, which has since been taken down, stated that the Director of Outreach, Robert Espinoza tried to commit suicide on campus due to pressures put upon him by the Associate Dean of Student Life. Whether or not Gutierrez or Rios made this post is currently unconfirmed.
Present at Monday’s A.S. meeting, Espinoza publicly announced that the social media post was wholly false. “There were reports last week by a fellow student that apparently I tried committing suicide on campus, which were all false, of course. I don’t know where this person may or may not have gotten her sources from, but apparently she believe I was forced to do this by our own Sonali Bridges," he said. To continue further, Espinoza mentioned that Bridges has been his biggest supporter.
Of the post, Espinoza further stated, "I don’t know where this kind of information is coming from and even if it was true...it wasn’t necessary, whatsoever to come up. This is not an advocacy issue. This is more of a personal issue, if it was true, which is was not.”
Following notification of the post on Wednesday, Vice President of Student Affairs, Mike Tuitasi posted and handed out a statement at the protest that read, “No student or any other person attempted suicide at Santa Monica College. It is shameful for any person to circulate such false information.” Tuitasi went further to state that the student responsible for posting the “false and malicious information” will be brought up on disciplinary violations.
Campus Counsel Bob Meyers said of Gutierrez’s connection with the false post, “Whatever her motivation, her conduct is probably one of the most despicable and reprehensible actions that I’ve seen trying to exploit the private medical conditions of a particular student for political aim. It’s just plain wrong.”
Though her flier repeatedly directed accusations at the Dean of Student Life, it is clear from the protest on Wednesday that she intended these accusations against the Associate Dean of Student Life, Sonali Bridges.
She accuses Bridges of falsely accusing her of harassment and scandal, which directly resulted in her resignation in early October. Bridges was under the impression that Gutierrez resigned to pursue an internship at UCLA and that, according to Bridges, “She left on very good terms.” However, at the protest, Gutierrez stated that the false accusations made against her were the official reason why she resigned.
Gutierrez feels that other directors may want to resign, however, “They’re comfortable in their space, because [Bridges] does a very good job of that. But she also does a very good job at isolating them and spreading gossip so that way they don’t act on activism and that is our whole purpose of being there.”
The associate dean was further accused of bribery by purchasing a bed for a director to maintain a good relationship with this person on the board.
Gutierrez said she would be bringing these issues to KTLA as well as the Daily Bruin in an attempt to have her voice and the voice of other silenced directors be heard.