The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 8, 2009

UPDATE: GCC student suspended for off-campus participation in online gay porn


By Andrew Carranza

Allied News Staff Writer



To Grove City College, John Gechter was a bright young student majoring in molecular biology.

But to his online audience, he was Vincent DeSalvo, a baby-faced rising star in the gay pornography industry.

Both worlds unexpectedly crashed into each other two weeks ago after his online persona was discovered at GCC.

“A student on campus was browsing inappropriate content online and recognized me on a (pornography) Web site,” said the 22-year-old Philadelphia native. “He copied and pasted some images and sent an e-mail to some friends. GCC is a pretty small school, so the e-mail spread like wildfire.”

Gechter began his career in gay pornography late in his sophomore year, two years ago. During that time, Gechter successfully kept Vincent DeSalvo a secret from his life at GCC. No one knew about his off-campus job, not even his roommate at the Colonial Apartment complex.

That ended the night of April 23 when the first e-mail revealing his online identity was sent out. By the next morning, at least two-thirds of the student population had received the e-mail. So did school administration.

GCC officials have decided to indefinitely suspend Gechter for one year for his activities, pending his decision to appeal to the provost.

“I absolutely believe the college (has) violated my rights,” Gechter said. “They (suspended) me based on my occupation. I was not doing anything illegal.”

But according to GCC Communications Director Amy Clingensmith, Gechter’s involvement in the porn industry “exhibited behavior contrary to the values” of the college.

Ms. Clingensmith said the college’s main concern was for Gechter.

“Clearly something happened since he’s been here for four years that led him down this unfortunate path,” she said. “We want to get him out of that type of life.”

But according to Gechter, acting in porn helped him pay tuition at GCC.

“When I first came to Grove City, I was pressed for money and I worked four jobs trying to make ends meet,” he recalled. “Money was always an issue as I tried to keep my head above water. Then I started modeling, which earned me significant money.”

In 2007, Gechter signed with Midwest Model Management, based in Canton, Ohio. During a photo shoot about a year later, Gechter was approached by an agent who told him he had the perfect body for the porn industry, which paid much more than modeling.

Gechter immediately accepted the offer. He said he has filmed about 15 scenes since that time.

For the last two years, Gechter attended classes at GCC during the week before flying to Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago on the weekends to film scenes.

“I’d fly out on Friday, shoot, then fly back on Sunday,” Gechter said. “I’ve traveled all over the country.”

“I’ve paid my entire way through school and, truth is, if I didn’t do porn, I wouldn’t be able to (attend) GCC,” he added.

But his college career is in jeopardy since GCC administrators discovered Gechter’s extracurricular activities on April 24. He met with college officials that day and, according to Ms. Clingensmith, “during this meeting the student confirmed he is, and has been, under contract, and in fact was performing in the adult entertainment industry.”

“He also indicated he chose to participate in this behavior knowing it was incongruent with the policies, mission and values of Grove City College,” Ms. Clingensmith wrote in an e-mail.

During a subsequent April 27 meeting, Larry Hardesty, GCC vice president for student life and learning, informed Gechter that he would be suspended indefinitely for one year.

Gechter would be able to return to GCC in the fall of 2010 to finish his degree, “provided he exhibited proof that he turned his life around and is out of (the porn) industry,” Ms. Clingensmith explained. “The student was also notified he was not to be on college property during this suspension and informed a return to the college would involve the approval of (Hardesty) and a probationary status.”

Gechter was charged with three sanctions: sexual misconduct; participating in a public display of pornography; and having been engaged in conduct that is contrary to the mission and values of Grove City College;and likely to bring dishonor to the college and acting in a way inconsistent with college values, according to a letter sent to Gechter from Hardesty.

GCC’s student handbook, the Crimson, outlines the college’s stance on premarital sex under its sexual misconduct policy, Ms. Clingensmith said.

“Premarital sex, heterosexual or homosexual, or any other such conduct that violates historical Christian standards” is subject to disciplinary action, she noted.

Gechter appealed the sanctions and his hearing was held Monday.

The appeals board, composed of faculty and students, voted to sustain the sanctions imposed by the Office of Student Life and Learning, according to a letter sent to Gechter from Mary A. Skidmore and Dr. James Bibza, co-chairs of the appeals board.

Gechter said Tuesday he was taking the school’s internal appeals process to the next level, which Ms. Clingensmith said was a review by the provost of the college.

According to Ms. Clingensmith, disciplinary action at GCC has four goals: educating the students on what they have done wrong; changing that behavior; pointing the students toward Christ; and restoring them to the college community.

Gechter, who said he is bisexual, said he was disappointed by GCC’s reaction, adding that he was “not going down without a fight.”

Soon after the initial April 24 meeting, Gechter contacted Pittsburgh attorney Eric Davis of Fried & Davis, L.L.C., who took on his case. Gechter also said he spoke with Gary A. Van Horn Jr., president of the Pittsburgh Delta Foundation, which aims to improve the lives for the gay community in the area, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a letter directed to Hardesty, both Van Horn Jr. and Davis assert that Gechter has “faced significant discrimination and an unfair ultimatum in the situation regarding his expulsion.”

“Even if John were an actor in the adult industry, in no way is his image as a performer associated with anything on campus,” the letter continued. “In fact, the identity of performers is a priority in the adult industry and it would be extremely difficult to prove if the person performing in these materials is even John, much less associate him with the college.”

When performing under the Vincent DeSalvo alias, no connection could be made between Gechter’s work in the porn industry and GCC, Gechter noted.

“None (of my performances) were on the college campus and there is nothing explicitly or implicitly linked to GCC,” he said. “I was performing for my audience.”

While the reaction from GCC administration disappointed him, Gechter added that the response from his peers upset him even more. The majority of students were hostile toward him once the news broke, he said.

“I received about 150 hate mails from students, which surprised me,” he said. “Students were the first ones to condemn and judge me, and I was really saddened by their response.”

Ms. Clingensmith said she did not know about the hate mail.

“There were some students who supported me, but I could count them on one hand,” Gechter added. “A lot of my friends look at me differently now.”

A GCC student, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he witnessed first-hand the hostility toward Gechter.

“The response from campus was basically total shock,” the student said. “The majority of students here are vehemently opposed to homosexuality, and I have even personally seen a (student) throw fruit at him. The school’s intolerance has become more pronounced because of this incident.”

Gechter was well-known on campus even before the news broke, according to the student. Gechter served on the staff of the Collegian, GCC’s student newspaper, for three years Ð two as a photographer and one as photo editor and also donated more than 15,000 pictures to the Grove City Admissions office, according to his attorney.

Gechter said he hasn’t consistently attended class in the last two weeks since he appealed the indefinite suspension.

“I did have apprehension going on campus since I get many looks and stares,” he admitted. “Hate mail is bad, but what if a bigoted prejudice group want to do something worse?”

While Ms. Clingensmith couldn’t confirm that Gechter hasn’t been attending classes, she added that faculty and staff have seen him eating in the cafeteria and working out in the gym. “If he felt that threatened, he would not go to these things,” she said.

Gechter said he is considering filing suit against GCC, as well as the students who harassed him. “The next step is to sue the school for damages,” he said. “I also plan to sue individual students who sent me e-mails for defamation of character and slander.”

While being on campus may have been tough, Gechter said the most difficult thing was telling his parents about his involvement in gay pornography.

“That was the most difficult phone call I’ve ever had to make,” he admitted. “My mom practically disowned me. It was so hard since your family is the people you care about most and you don’t want to disappoint them.”

Gechter said he chose to attend GCC because of its reputation as a great school, an assertion he still holds.

“The college is a very good institution and I learned a lot here,” he said. “I didn’t think my bisexuality would have been a problem at GCC since it was never something I told people.”

Gechter said he didn’t think being involved in the porn industry would have caused such an uproar on campus. “I’ve been in porn for two years and only now are people finding out,” he said.

But Ms. Clingensmith had a different view:

“We are one of the most conservative Christian colleges in the country, so why would he be surprised this would cause a stir? We educate students about what GCC stands for before they even get here as freshmen.”

Throughout the ordeal, Gechter said he still considers himself a Christian.

“I do consider myself a Christian, but the examples of what people have shown me (as Christians) has been very different,” he said. “I kept my campus life separate (from porn) and I never thought people would react the way they did.”