Kristopher Gutierrez Investigation
The story thus far
Kristopher Gutierrez is an adjunct professor working at Pierce College and is currently under investigation by both the college and the Puyallup Police Department.
The investigation into Gutierrez began on Feb. 25, when two students complained to college administration that he was spending class time promoting his account on the controversial social media app: TikTok. The complaints made by the students referenced the videos on Gutierrez’s TikTok profile and how their adult-specific content made them feel uncomfortable.
Gutierrez was sent an email from Vice President of Human Resources Holly Gorski on Feb. 26 notifying him that Pierce College had officially launched an investigation to look into his actions in the classroom and use of college resources. Gorski said that, upon initial review of Gutierrez’s then-public social media accounts, investigators found many of Gutierrez’s videos to be sexual in their content or contain explicit language, which was the base of the students’ claims. There was proof, visible through the video footage, of at least two recorded videos being shot on Pierce College premises. Gorski stated the use of college resources could theoretically be against the Washington State Ethics In Public Service Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
On Feb. 27, Gutierrez was escorted out of his classroom in the middle of teaching. After deleting any videos that appeared to be recorded on Pierce College property, Gutierrez was escorted off campus.
A notice indirectly addressing Gutierrez’s investigation was emailed out to all students, staff and faculty members. The message was put out just before 6 p.m.
People had already been talking about it on social media platforms for hours at that point. Gutierrez, when reached out to by a reporter of The Puyallup Post for comment, had this to say:
“I wish I could clear all this up,” he said. “But administration has forbade me to speak with any student or person who works with Pierce College until the investigation is over. I’m sorry.”
Gutierrez reached out at 10:43 p.m. and had decided to issue a statement on the investigation.
Before long, Pierce College wasn’t the only organization looking into Gutierrez, as the Puyallup Police Department confirmed their own investigation on March 1, though it hadn’t yet been confirmed as a criminal investigation.
That same day, Gutierrez was reached out to by a reporter of The Puyallup Post and asked for a video interview, to which he consented.
These are the only events confirmed and verified by The Puyallup Post regarding the situation thus far.
What’s next for Gutierrez
Investigations vary in time of completion and, even though it’s a rarity to do otherwise, it seemed incongruous to the integrity of The Puyallup Post to throw a conclusion together on something that has yet to yield conclusive results. Instead of speculating, expositing or feigning a conclusion, The Puyallup Post employees instead seek to explain what’s known, and what’s next.
Reporters continue to gather information regarding the investigation of Gutierrez and have widened the scope of their search to the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus — justifiably so, as Gutierrez’s presence on Fort Steilacoom must also be taken into account.
While gathering information is the main focus of the staff, the news team will also focus on verifying the accuracy of all information reported from other sources and received by us related to the investigation. Staff members of The Puyallup Post can’t guarantee the rate at which new facets to the story will develop, but they can guarantee that new information gathered will be put out to the local populace as soon as it is vetted and verified.
Though this issue is the last issue of The Puyallup Post for the winter quarter, the news team will continue to update citizens of the greater Puyallup area on this story as it develops. The developing information will come in the form of news briefs on social media platforms utilized by the news team: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter.
If anyone has any information to aid reporters of The Puyallup Post in their efforts, they are encouraged to reach out via social media platforms, phone call or stopping by the office in the College Center Building, room 210.
The way he sees it: Hearing from Gutierrez
Kristopher Gutierrez believes he’s done nothing wrong. From his perspective, even as a college professor, he has a right to use social media as a form of expression as much as anyone else.
Looking for new opportunities to express himself, Gutierrez said he set up a TikTok account to pursue recreational endeavors outside of his work.
“It was just a fun something,” he said. “I thought when I first went into it, there were some nice videos. I liked some videos and I started making some.”
Gutierrez began to create content for his new account in December to help with his depression therapy. One of his videos in particular went viral, garnering more than 16,000 views.
The video, which Gutierrez described as wholesome, was of him defending himself with a back scratcher as a female aggressor pounded on the wall between them. Gutierrez explained that his TikTok videos are mashed together as split-screen duets with strangers.
Gutierrez said he felt a sense of pride in the popularity of the video and showed it to students in most of his classes before or after scheduled class time.
He gave his TikTok username to one or two students who asked about it. He said he didn’t think giving his username to students was a problem. Gutierrez’s TikTok account has about 2,500 followers.
In addition to his popular video on TikTok, Gutierrez recently posted another video that included three male students working on their lab assignment in his Physics 110 class.
Gutierrez said Dean of Student Success Agnes Steward removed him from the classroom on Feb. 27 during his Physics 110 class. He was escorted into the student services office in the Administration Building and told to remove videos containing Pierce College students or filmed on college property.
“I was forced there, against my will, to delete all videos that contained any footage that included Pierce,” he said. “They made me go through one by one and delete (the videos) in front of them as they were watching. Security was outside. I didn’t have a choice.”
After deleting videos, Gutierrez was escorted to his vehicle by campus safety officers and told to leave campus. He said he didn’t realize campus safety officers were waiting for him to leave until he looked back and saw them.
Gutierrez, as an assistant adjunct professor, should have been allowed to be accompanied by a representative from the faculty union, the Pierce College Federation of Teachers, but he was not.
Although college administrators still are investigating Gutierrez’s posting of videos on TikTok, it’s worth noting that the college policy doesn’t have rules explicitly covering social media sites like TikTok and whether or not professors are prohibited from using such platforms or sharing them with students.
Gutierrez said his employment as a college professor shouldn’t influence his social media use in his personal life.
“We are human. We have a right to express ourselves,” he said. “We have a right to be open beings. Professors have the right to have as much or as little as they would like (online.)”
Gutierrez denied all claims from critics posted on Facebook and Twitter regarding this investigation, calling them all conjecture and unequivocally false.
Gutierrez cited the rumor he offered private tutoring sessions to students as a specific example of the claims being posted to social media regarding his conduct. He said that, as the professor grading his students, offering private instruction to students would be a conflict of interests.
Gutierrez likened the threads on social media sites to a witch hunt. The hard work and care he has for his students should, as Gutierrez said, make the theory of him taking inappropriate conduct with a student an impossibility. He said many people online are looking for as much information on him as possible, in the hopes they may find something to tie Gutierrez’s name to a class C felony: communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
“They can look, but they won’t find any information because there is no information,” he said.
While disregarding the claims on social media, Gutierrez did acknowledge he hasn’t had a spotless track record with his students.
Some students have felt uncomfortable around him, he said, though he explained his friendliness and open personality left room for misinterpretation.
Despite the varying perspectives involved in the college’s investigation, the fact that the Puyallup Police Department is conducting an investigation of its own can’t be disputed.
PPD Capt. Ryan Portman confirmed a separate police investigation into Gutierrez.
Gutierrez commented on the investigation, saying the police went to the Puyallup campus to look at the work computers he used but said college officials denied the PPD’s request to do so. Gutierrez couldn’t comment on whether or not he knew if the investigation was officially a criminal investigation but instead said that there was no reason to believe the investigation was of high priority.
Regardless of whether or not he’s getting a fair and impartial investigation via the college, Gutierrez is still expecting a termination.
“With all the bad publicity, there’s no way they’ll take me back,” he said. “It’s easier to just get rid of me, even if I’ve done nothing wrong. Then they’ll look like the good guys. After all, I’m just an adjunct.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost