San Jose State University followed proper guidelines in investigating and acting against four white students accused of racially harassing a black roommate over several months last fall, a report charged with reviewing the university's response to the incident has found.
But campus President Mohammad Qayoumi was not fully briefed on the matter until weeks later, missing the opportunity to communicate with the victim's family and failing to address overall campus security issues sooner, the report released Monday found.
"The potential for unwelcome publicity, safety concerns, and disruption in the housing and academic experience of the students involved was, or should have been, evident," the report said. "Accordingly, the facts known at that time indicate elevating consideration of this situation to the top leadership was warranted."
The 52-page fact-finding report was prepared by San Francisco attorney Myron "Mike" D. Moye and will be used by a task force set to propose recommendations to "ensure that San Jose State is a safe, secure, welcoming campus, which is what every one our students deserves," said Qayoumi.
The final report and recommendations are due at the end of April, Qayoumi said during a media briefing attended by Moye and task force chairwoman LaDoris H. Cordell, a retired Superior Court judge who is also the police auditor for the city of San Jose.
Three white students have been charged with misdemeanor hate crimes and battery. All three, and a fourth student, have been suspended from the university. Because the fourth student was a minor at the time, Santa Clara prosecutors would not confirm charges have been filed.
They are accused of taunting the victim, 17 at the time, with racial epithets, blocking him from leaving his room and forcing a u-shaped bike lock around his neck, among other actions.
The incidents came to light in mid-October when the unnamed victim's parents noticed a Confederate flag in the living area of the four-bedroom campus apartment and a racial slur on an eraser board during a visit. They contacted housing officials who alerted campus police.
The report found the residence staff acted quickly once they learned of the incidents. One issue, the report found, was that even though the harassment had begun in late August, the victim was reluctant to report the behavior and asked other students who knew not to say anything.
Qayoumi was not fully made aware of the details for about a month until Nov. 20, just before the Santa Clara district attorney filed charges.
"We are having a conversation on changing protocols," Qayoumi said. "That is also why the task force's role is so critical. They will have a chance to investigate and make recommendations."
The 18-member task force is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Thursday.
"One of the issues we're going to look at is the environment on campus to see if there's anything that can be done to encourage students to come forward and not be as reluctant," said Cordell.
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