City College’s administration, members of student clubs and their faculty advisers and student government leaders are working together to determine the fate of a mural depicting Diana Gonzalez, a student that was killed by her estranged husband on campus in 2010.
The mural, created and painted on campus by more than 150 students on Sept. 28, portrays Gonzalez holding her young child against a floral backdrop.
The administration has various concerns regarding the mural: How does the murder affect the reputation of City College; how it mentally affects students, faculty and staff; and what should the process be to create and hang murals on campus.
Members of the student clubs involved believe that the mural was created to raise domestic violence awareness and to honor Gonzalez and removing her name would undermine that. They also strongly desire to find a permanent home for it on campus.
The contrasting plans for the mural came to a head on Oct. 10, when student organizers planned to unveil it in the Math and Science (MS) Building. Instead that day, they were informed by their advisers in an emergency meeting that the administration had not given permission to do so until key details could be worked out.
ASG leadership, representing the student voice, met with Interim City College President Lynn Neault and other senior administrators on Oct. 21.
“Do we really want City College to be in the news repeatedly for the campus where a murder occurred?” asked Neault. “Do we want that to be the public image of the campus?”
During the meeting, college health officials reported concern for the emotional well being of would-be viewers of the mural, stating that instances of emotional distress spike at the Mental Heath Center every time there’s an event for Gonzalez.
Neault’s proposal included removing the commemoration of Gonzalez from the mural, and instead, honoring domestic violence awareness as a general theme.
In addition, the mural would hang twice annually, not permanently, in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in March for Women’s History Month.
However, some students involved in the creation of the mural take exception to the removal of Gonazlez’s name.
“The way we always talk about this is as the mural for Diana Gonzalez and survivors of domestic violence. It’s (called) a mural for Diana Gonzalez or the Diana Gonzalez mural. That’s how we’ve talked about it this entire time. And all of the sudden, they don’t agree,” expressed Visionary Feminist (VF) member, Arny Brenes.
Seven faculty members convened twice over the issue, once in March with retiring President Terrence J. Burgess and again in September with Interim President Neault.
Sociology professor and VF club adviser, Sarah Pitcher, addressed the ASG at its weekly meeting Oct. 18. She informed student leaders that as a result of the March meeting, it was understood that the design received approval but with stipulation that the mural would not include Gonzalez’ name.
There was also an agreement at that time to have the accompanying plaque reviewed by the administration before it was publicly displayed.
Recalling the outcome of the September meeting, Neault stated, “Two of the faculty understood that there was a commitment to paint this mural in honor of Diana Gonzalez and hang it in the MS building and five other people at the meeting heard something different.”
She went on to stress, “ … Where we weren’t divided is 100 per cent unanimity around domestic violence awareness.”
The administration’s secondary issue is two-fold: what situations are worthy of creating a mural and what should the guidelines be for displaying and storing it.
At the Oct. 21 meeting, Neault asked the ASG leadership, “We’ve lost other students on the campus through suicide, through other things. What about them? I mean, why just one student?”
The administration also sought out the safest way to display the large, framed mural.
Neault confirmed that the college is costing out one possible way to exhibit it, as well as other possible art, above the lobby in the MS building. She also indicated that the location would be safe from potential vandals, and be displayed in a high traffic area.
The VF and BEAT clubs, along with faculty advisers Pitcher and political science professor, Larissa Dorman, found a temporary home for the mural at Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park.
In a statement issued by the clubs Oct. 23, the mural is to be unveiled on Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. as part of the center’s Dia de los Muertos exhibit.
It is to remain on display there until the end of the year, but Pitcher and Dorman, along with the passionate students involved, will work towards the goal of displaying it on campus, according to the statement.
“We hope to work alongside the administration to create a clear policy for all murals and plan to continue meeting with faculty, staff, students and administration to find a way forward and a more permanent home for this beautiful mural.”
The statement also openly encouraged students interested in bringing the mural to City College to attend club meetings. VF meets on Mondays at 5 p.m. in L-107 and BEAT meets on Fridays at 2 p.m. at Krakatoa Cafe in Golden Hill.
Gonzalez’ husband, Armando Gabriel Perez, 40, awaits trial in her murder and faces life in prison if convicted. Her parents, Jose and Concepcion Gonzalez, are raising her now 4-year-old daughter Chrystal.