San Jose Mercury News: San Jose Conference Held to Boost Latino College Graduation

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News March 15, 2014.

By Steve Johnson

SAN JOSE — Joining hundreds of other Latinos, Robert and Robyn Rodriguez hustled through San Jose State‘s sprawling campus early Saturday morning with their 10-year-old son, Ceasar, so they could find a seat at a conference intended to boost Latino college attendance and graduation rates.

Ceasar, a student at Horace Mann Elementary in San Jose, is doing well in school. He said he wants a college degree “to get a good job.” And his parents share his enthusiasm.

Noting that neither he nor his wife went to college, Robert Rodriguez said, “We’re real excited about him having a chance.”

Latinos make up 38 percent of California’s population and are expected this year to surpass non-Hispanic whites as the state’s biggest ethnic or racial group, yet they lag worrisomely behind many other racial and ethnic groups in higher education.

Although seven out of 10 Latino high school graduates enroll in college, according to the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity, they are less likely than whites and people of Asian descent to get into top schools, attend full time and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Indeed, a 2011 study by the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley found that just 14 percent of local Latinos have a bachelor’s degree compared with 52 percent of non-Latinos.

That’s a costly educational gap. By some estimates, people with college degrees over their lifetimes on average earn at least $1 million more than those with just a high-school diploma.

“Education offers a golden opportunity for each and every one of you,” San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi told the crowd at the university’s event center. “Education is the passport for your future.”

Read the full story. 

Cesar Chavez Day: Spartans Embrace Activism

Cesar Chavez Day: Spartans Embrace Activism

Cesar Chavez Day: Spartans Embrace Activism

The César E. Chávez Monument: Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice on the grounds of San Jose State (Bruce Cramer photo).

In a world with more than eight billion people, just one can make a difference when a life is used to better someone else’s. “I have a button that says ‘one person can do so much’,” said Leila McCabe ’12 Sociology . “I feel like it’s my duty to help improve people’s lives, but I love doing that.” McCabe, and others such as Elisha St. Laurent, ’13 Behavioral Science and Sociology, were among some of the students who campaigned to raise the minimum wage in San Jose starting in 2011. Though the campaign recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, they have not stopped fighting for the rights of others.

Workers rights and activism flowing throughout the nation

Workers rights has been a debated topic for decades with advocates such as Cesar Chavez, in the 1950s and 1960s, marching and working to see employees given proper wages and working conditions. Chavez is honored with a holiday that falls during SJSU’s Spring Break, and Maribel Martinez, department manager of the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center, said Cesar Chavez Day is an opportunity for people to honor his legacy and serve. “We host a service day,” she said. “We encourage people to come out and volunteer.”

Maribel said the CCCAC and volunteers will work with Veggielution to reconnect with the land and harvest as a way to celebrate the impact that Cesar Chavez made in the San Jose community.

McCabe said as an SJSU alumna, its part of her “lineage” to be inspired by those such as Chavez, who sacrificed time and strength for workers rights. She, as an activist, does not sit down when she sees a moment to serve. Now part of the Raise the Wage East Bay campaign, McCabe said “the fact that I’m still able to do this work is kind of amazing. It’s probably best thing I’ve done in my life.” McCabe explained that some doubted that she and her peers could make a difference in a complicated issue such as workers rights and the raising of minimum wage but looking back, they were in some ways pioneers for a now national discussion. “People literally told us we were crazy that it was not the right time to do it.”

Serving: A way of life

McCabe said though generation X can be a generation that works for self interest, she has begun to see a shift in her group of friends, as people look to be part of  social justice issues and campaigns.

St. Laurent, who also worked on the Measure D campaign, said though people such as Chavez are highlighted when talking about people who make a difference in social justice issues, there are others who selflessly serve. “We’re all tired … The idea of actually getting up and wanting to empower [your] community or wanting to be a part of [your] community  just on [Cesar Chavez day] or one week is great, but you should wake up every day like that, wanting to help people because every day people wake up homeless,” St. Laurent said. She said time is precious and she has often sacrificed time for herself for others because any day can be a chance to change someone’s life. “I make time because God made time for me … It took me realizing that my life should be of servitude to others,” she said.

McCabe said it’s her passion to help others, and she feels empowered to see change in her community. “I can’t not try to make a difference when I know that we have the power to make change,” she said.

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State’s Festering Racial Issues Challenge Black Students

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News March 1, 2014.

By David E. Early and Katy Murphy

SAN JOSE — Whenever touring black high school seniors consider the sprawling San Jose State University campus, they are impressed by the main library named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and by the majestic statue depicting alums Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raising their fists in the Black Power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics.

“Look at this,” is what an awed Zhane Gay, now a sophomore health science major, thought when she saw the 20-foot-high sculpture on her visit from Southern California. Like so many others, she decided, “This is where I need to be.”

But the recent turmoil over a racial bullying scandal has rattled the campus, and many black students are questioning how a university with these outward symbols of diversity leaves so many of them feeling isolated and lost inside.

Read the full story.

Shirley Weber

Assembly Committee on Campus Climate to Convene

Tower Hall and the front entrance of Morris Dailey

The Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate will meet March 21 at Morris Dailey Auditorium (Bruce Cramer photo).

(Editor’s note: The following was posted March 5 by the office of Assembly Member Shirley N. Weber.)

Media contact: Joe Kocurek, (619) 655-8330

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Member Shirley N. Weber, chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate, has announced that the committee will hold its first informational hearing on Friday, March 21, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., at San Jose State University’s Morris Dailey Auditorium, One Washington Square, San Jose. Students and the public are invited to attend.

The Select Committee on Campus Climate was formed to explore issues of diversity, tolerance and student safety at the state’s college campuses after a series of bias-motivated incidents in recent years, including a serious incident at San Jose State last fall involving an assault on an African American. This is the first of four hearings to be held throughout the state over the next few months.

“Our mission is to ensure that the state’s college campuses are safe and welcoming environments for all students,” said Weber, a former faculty member and department chair at San Diego State University.

For more information, please contact Assembly Member Weber’s Capitol Office at (916) 319–2079.

Read the full release. 

Linda Ronstadt to Speak at SJSU

Linda Ronstadt to Speak at SJSU

No admission fee will be charged so that all can attend. Donations will be accepted.

Since publishing her autobiography, Linda Ronstadt has spoken at several pricey Bay Area venues.

Professor of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Maria Luisa Alaniz wanted something different for SJSU.

This means organizers will request donations, not sell tickets, when the 11-time Grammy Award winner comes to Morris Dailey Auditorium 6 p.m. March 12.

This event is accessible to all community members,” Alaniz said. “No one will be turned away.”

Ronstadt will be in conversation with Alaniz and Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center Director Maribel Martinez, ’03 Political Science and Sociology, ’10 Applied Sociology.

Resiliency

Although the performer has lost her singing voice to Parkinson’s disease, music will remain a big part of the evening. Entertainers include Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de SJSU. Ronstadt remains close to San Jose’s Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival.

Broadly speaking, her career cut across so many musical genres—rock, country, blues—that she defies description. She is perhaps best known for the ballad “Blue Bayou” and the upbeat anthem “Somewhere Out There.”

ronstadt

Thirty signed copies of “Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir” will be available at a discounted price at the door.

Ronstadt made it look easy. It was not. A fragile beauty in front of the cameras when she emerged on the scene in the 1960s, she fought to forge her own path.

She found a way to express her creativity and independence in the tough, competitive music industry,” Alaniz said.

Ronstadt eventually returned to Mexican American roots belied by a German last name. She wore a traditional, embroidered suit while receiving a Grammy for her nostalgic 1989 album, “Canciones de Mi Padre” (“Songs of My Father”). 

Embracing culture and history

“It was just a beautiful thing to see her represent our music while also embracing our culture and our history,” Alaniz said.

It’s no coincidence the event’s principal organizers are women. Ronstadt may be older, but her journey resonates through the generations.

She was never afraid to lend her voice to social causes, and continues to do so today, making appearances even as her voice falters.

She has a lot to say to young women about resiliency,” Alaniz said. “She negotiated the music industry’s corporate world as a woman and for the most part a single woman. She really had to be courageous in creating her own eclectic career.”

“Are We Post-Racial, or is Racism Still a Problem?”

Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson, acclaimed author, professor, political analyst and holder of a doctorate in religion, delivered a provocative lecture in response to alleged hate crimes at San Jose State (Christina Olivas photo).

Race: a topic some may dare not to whisper, Michael Eric Dyson boldly addressed with the dynamic, poetic cadence of a reverend and a rapper as he spit the lyrics of Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls to tackle the question, “Are we post-racial, or is racism still a problem?”

Dyson, acclaimed author, professor, political analyst and holder of a doctorate in religion, delivered a provocative lecture in response to alleged hate crimes at San Jose State. More than 500 people of different ethnicities, genders and ages flooded Morris Daily Auditorium, sitting and standing for the lecture Monday evening.

Is racism an issue in 2014?

Before the lecture, Adam Ahmed, ’17 Microbiology, and a member of the lecture’s planning team, said he was curious about Dyson’s take on race as he found it shocking that in 2014 racism is still a problem, especially at SJSU. However, other attendees anticipated Dyson’s lecture would shed light on a dark reality in America.

I think it’s interesting how people of color seem to be the only ones who think that racism still exists and that it’s still a prevalent issue,” said Najma Sadiq, a DeAnza College student.

“I hope Mr. Dyson definitely breaks all the stereotypes and lets people know that it’s real, it exists and what happened [at SJSU] is a clear-cut definition that it does still exist in 2014.”

Dyson did address the current and past existence of racism as he said even in “hot beds of liberalism,” cases such as the alleged hate crimes at SJSU are very real. Dyson compared racial issues to a boil that one must sometimes “slice open and let the puss spill out.”

Dispelling the makeup of a racist

During the lecture, Dyson walked the audience through the history of race in America. He emphasized the vast importance of understanding America’s racialized history before we can move forward.

The very people who acknowledge the racial chasm are themselves said to be the reason for the racial chasm because they keep talking about the racial chasm.”

Dyson expressed how this concept is almost as absurd as blaming a diseased person for the creation of their disease. His voice boomed in the auditorium as he went on to make three points relating to how people can respect race and differences.

zxcv

Dyson in front of the iconic Smith/Carlos sculpture at SJSU (Christina Olivas photo).

Hierarchy and specificity, not exclusivity

“We’re obsessed with hierarchy,” he said, making his first point that society must learn to nurture the differences in people without ranking them. “In other words, you ain’t got to be what the mainstream says you ought to be in order to be acknowledged as something worthy to exist.”

Next, he encouraged the audience to develop an appreciation for racial specificity without being racially exclusive, which means one must realize that race is an essential part of individuals’ stories in the United States.

Lastly, he said diversity must be for the sake of a just goal. For example, if people of diverse ethnic backgrounds ostracize someone based on sexual orientation, an injustice is being perpetuated amidst superficial diversity.

You have to hold on to the courageous assertion of your identity,” he said. “The reason you come [to SJSU] is to make a contribution and to challenge the norm.”

During the question and answer period, Rigo Garcia, ’15 Mexican American Studies, shared his observation that although the university touts diversity, ethnic studies departments don’t have the perceived support that one may expect.

This was promoting diversity for an unjust goal, Garcia said, before asking how he can be part of those who instead seek diversity for justice within the ethnic studies programs.

Myth of a post-racial society

zscv

Students crowd Dyson for handshakes and pictures (Christina Olivas photo).

After the questions subsided, audience members rushed and crowded Dyson for handshakes and pictures. Ahmed said he was struck by the professor’s point that we are not in a post-racial society even though the country has its first black president.

“People believe with [President Barak Obama’s] election that we are done with race, ‘been there done black,’” Dyson stated, followed by laughs from the audience as he explained much remains undone.

Ahmed said Obama’s success may have contributed to his previous thoughts, adding that he now wanted to ask Dyson,

What happens next? This is not the first talk like this [about race relations]. Will we ever see true unity in this country?”

CSU Super Sunday

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi, faculty and staff attended four San Jose churches to inform families that it’s never too early to strive for higher education during CSU Super Sunday Feb. 16.

Ready for Greatness

Parents and youth, such as Jahne Hill, a high school sophomore, sought more insight into college readiness.

Whatever choices you make now affect what you are going to do in the future, especially for college,” she said.

Grandmother Flavor Dyer, ’81 Liberal Studies, encouraged her three young grandchildren to introduce themselves to Qayoumi at Emmanuel Baptist Church, as she insisted that they too would be doctors.

Greeting the President

Catherine Mann, ’12 Art and Art History, waited for Qayoumi’s arrival after the 8 a.m. service because she wanted to shake the hand of her alma mater’s president.

Qayoumi participated in the entirety of the 11 a.m. service, standing, sitting and bowing in reverence to the speakers, songs and prayers before he spoke to the congregation about financial and admission opportunities within the CSU system.

Despite campus dissonance, Qayoumi said the administration wants to make SJSU more hospitable.

If there are changes that need to be done whether it’s in our training, whether it’s in our outreach, whether it’s the general knowledge [or] whether it’s the policies, changes will be incorporated,” he said.

“Unfortunately, bad things happen in our society. The key is … how do we use that information so that we can strengthen the university?”

 

 

Michael Eric Dyson to Speak at SJSU

Michael Eric Dyson to Speak at SJSU

Michael Eric Dyson to Speak at SJSU

Named one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine, Dyson is a Georgetown University professor of sociology.

“Are we post-racial, or is racism still a problem?” This question—central to shock waves that rocked campus in response to alleged hate crimes at SJSU—is the topic of an upcoming provocative discussion.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 in Morris Dailey Auditorium with remarks by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor of sociology. Admission is free. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for SJSU students with Tower Card, and 5:45 p.m. for the general public. The event will be streamed live on the web and accessible from the university homepage.

The audience will be encouraged to submit questions in person or via Twitter, using the hashtag #DysonSJSU. The feed will be monitored by a team of students, faculty, staff and administrators who came together in response to the alleged hate crimes. The group is planning a series of events beginning with Dyson, a Detroit native who took an unusual path to becoming one of the nation’s leading African American scholars.

According to his bio, he was a welfare father and factory worker before he began college at age 21. Now an author, minister and political analyst, he bridges academia and pop culture. In addition to penning 17 books, he has appeared in the cartoon strip “The Boondocks,” and been name checked by hip hop legends KRS-1, Black Thought and Nas.

 

Fact Finder Mike Moye

President’s Update: Fact Finder’s Report

President, Judge Cordell and Mike Moye address the media.

President Qayoumi, Judge LaDoris Cordell and lawyer Myron “Mike” D. Moye address the media regarding the release of a fact finder’s report on alleged hate crimes at SJSU (Christina Olivas photo).

 

President Qayoumi emailed the following statement to all faculty, staff and students regarding alleged hate crimes in SJSU’s student housing complex. A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established.

Late last year, I pledged to initiate an independent fact-finding review of alleged hate crimes against one of our students, and establish an independent task force to study those findings and offer recommendations for ensuring a safe, welcoming climate for everyone in the SJSU community.

The fact finder, Myron “Mike” D. Moye, has completed his work, and the report [PDF] has just been provided to the campus and special task force headed by Judge LaDoris Cordell (Ret.). The task force plans to convene for the first time this Thursday, February 6 to begin studying the report.

Judge Cordell and I are firmly committed to an open, transparent process. The public will be able to attend and observe task force meetings; there will be opportunities at some meetings for community members to share their thoughts and suggestions with the task force as a whole. Meetings will be streamed live on the web and accessible from the university homepage.

I am grateful to Mr. Moye for his thoughtful, rigorous work, and to Judge Cordell, the SJSU students, faculty, staff and alumni, the CSU and community members for giving their time and talents to the independent task force. I look forward to receiving and sharing their report, which Judge Cordell has said should be completed by April 30.

Meanwhile, State Assembly Speaker John Perez has created an Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate. Assemblywoman and San Diego State Professor of Africana Studies Shirley D. Weber will chair the committee, which will hold hearings and make recommendations for the California State University, University of California and California Community College systems. I have met recently with Assemblywoman Weber and Assemblywoman and Speaker Pro Tempore Nora Campos (also a member of the select committee) and assured both that we will work cooperatively with them. I am also meeting with other lawmakers, including Assemblyman and SJSU alumnus Paul Fong.

Our own students remain very active, participating in discussions with the California State Student Association and University of California Student Association and calling meetings here on our campus. During King Day festivities at the library, Diana Crumedy and Gary L. Daniels received the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award. Daniels is also serving on the special task force. We are proud of their work.

I will continue sending you regular updates on our progress on all of these fronts. Thank you for your patience and support.

Sincerely,
Mohammad Qayoumi
President

Creating the Change for Which They Marched

Black students have rallied, marched and protested their way to recognition, promoting solidarity every step of the way.

Black students have rallied, marched and protested their way to recognition, promoting solidarity every step of the way.

After feeling nearly invisible a year ago, black students last term rallied, marched and protested their way to recognition, promoting solidarity every step of the way.

The result? Stronger relationships and communication within the black community surrounding this year’s Black History Month events.

“We are making great strides, we are more unified than we were a year ago,” said Danielle Miller, ’15 Political Science, and current Black Student Union president.

Taking Notice

Former BSU president Alyxandra Goodwin, ’14 Journalism, has seen changes in the administration’s approach to Black History Month. In the past, she and other black organization members were frustrated and felt that the administration did not take notice.

“Last year, the Black History Month events were all [student-led]. This year, the university sent out a memo for the African-American pioneer posters,” she said. “It’s almost like the university has to give us more recognition.”

Different Perspectives

Sasha Bassett, ‘14 Behavioral Science and Sociology, and MOSAIC diversity advocate intern, said it’s imperative that SJSU honor the different perspectives and cultures on campus.

Gary Daniels, ‘15 Political Science and Alpha Phi Alpha president.

Gary Daniels, ‘15 Political Science, and Alpha Phi Alpha president, added that in the last year, student leaders developed the Black Unity Group, a coalition of student-run black organizations that advocates for the rights of black students as well as other marginalized groups at SJSU.

“We are actually able to work closely with groups of different struggles like Latino students, LGBT groups and women’s groups,” he said. “We’re able to work together on a common basis where we can support each other.”

Displaying Unity

Last February, students marched on “Black Thursday” for recognition of blacks on campus and against the opinion article “Black History Month is Redundant,” published in the Spartan Daily.

Daniels said that the rally was the first display of black unity and the movement has grown.  Danielle Miller predicts this growth will continue, in spite of trials and tribulations.

“If you go to a place and everyone is complaining about something,” Daniels said, “it’s time for you to stop complaining and start standing up.”

What would Dr. King say?

Bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by renowned artist Sascha Schnittmann at King Library (Christina Olivas photo).

Bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by renowned artist Sascha Schnittmann at King Library (Christina Olivas photo).

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The students of San Jose State have long stood on the frontlines of civic and social justice movements. Over the decades, Spartans have rallied against everything from environmental pollution and unfair wages to chemical weapons and, most famously, racial inequality, as immortalized by the statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their 1968 Olympics Black Power salute. This statue, along with the Cesar Chavez Memorial Arch and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, represents the dream of social justice that San Jose State strives to embody.

But, given the recent alleged hate crimes in our residence hall, is true equality still just a dream? With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day upon us, we’ve turned our ear to the community. Below is a small selection of comments posted on news stories and social media by individuals near and far, along with some of King’s most poignant words.

What do you think King would say today?


“I read that a university freshman was harassed for three months in a dorm community regarding his racial identification, yet the problem was not identified by the university until a parent intervened. I worry that the university is losing the battle of survival in the 21st century.”

-Gerald McMinn, ’72, posted on Washington Square online

King: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus characterthat is the goal of true education.”

“Don’t deny him his education. Make him do community service in the inner city.”

Tim Nourie, posted on KTVU Channel 2’s Facebook page 

King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

“Haven’t any of you people heard of hazing? I am not saying it’s right; hazing is stupid and unnecessary and causes a lot of BS. Despite what I think, it happens. I agree this kid and his accessories should definitely be slapped with some consequences because of what they did. It doesn’t matter if the victim was black and the perpetrators were white. It was people doing stupid things to a person.”

Brianna Marie, posted on KTVU Channel 2’s Facebook page

King: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“Being a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white guy around enough people who assume I probably don’t care for some non-whites and feel free to express their true feelings, I can tell you racism is alive and well in mainstream America. There is still a long fight that needs to be waged, and the fight only gets worse the longer some folks continue to deny that racism is still a factor in America. It is, be embarrassed by it, and don’t perpetuate it by pretending it isn’t.”

Andy, posted on CNN’s website

King: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

“Perhaps a little jail time might help…but that costs money and it’s time to stop trying to jail or imprison everyone who doesn’t think like you. Could there perhaps be a teach-in, and allow them to admit they were wrong without resorting to jail or prison? Unless you’re hell-bent on vengeance, I think that’s a better direction to go in.”

Blair Whitney, posted on the Mercury News’ website

King: “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”

Remembering Dr. King

As sunlight streamed through the 20-foot-tall glass walls of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library foyer, people from all walks of life gathered Jan. 15 to sing, dance and speak in memory of the nation’s beloved civil rights leader.

Organizers dedicated this year’s King Day event to Nelson Mandela, given both men were “united in the struggle to combat human suffering.”

SJSU students Diana Crumedy and Gary L. Daniels received the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Dorothy Poole, chief of staff for the Office of the President.

Quoting King during her remarks, she noted that while conditions in our country have improved in some ways, college graduation rates for people of color continue to lag, a point especially relevant in this library, which jointly serves the city and university.

As the program ended, the voices of everyone in attendance echoed up through a permanent banner display overhead. One featuring Dr. King is especially poignant this year.

His quote? “The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

San Jose Mercury News Editorial: LaDoris Cordell a Good Choice for San Jose State Task Force

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Dec. 6, 2013.

If San Jose State University President Mo Qayoumi wanted a task force that would sweep racial conflicts under the dormitory rug, he made a huge mistake in appointing retired Judge LaDoris Cordell to head it.

Cordell’s outspoken nature is of legendary proportion. Most recently, she authored a column on these pages urging felony charges against the white freshmen accused of hate crimes for tormenting their African-American roommate — the incident that prompted Qayoumi to create the task force. And she has dealt with university challenges as vice provost at Stanford. By naming her, Qayoumi signals a determination to confront and overcome this trauma. It’s a very good choice.

President’s Update: An Independent Review of the Facts

President Qayoumi names Judge LaDoris H. Cordell to lead a task force that will review all the facts and propose recommendations for nurturing a safe, welcoming, tolerant community. (Photo: Christina Olivas)

President Qayoumi emailed the following statement to all faculty, staff and students regarding alleged hate crimes in SJSU’s student housing complex. A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established.

Dear Spartans,
I’m touching base to share additional information about the efforts to move the campus forward toward healing and recovery from the alleged race-related incident that occurred this fall in one of our residence halls.

Last week, I promised to initiate an independent review of the facts.  I’m pleased to report that Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (retired) has agreed to lead a special task force that will have two goals:

  1. Review all of the facts.
  2. Propose recommendations for ensuring that San Jose State is a safe, welcoming, tolerant community.

Judge Cordell served the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, for 19 years before becoming the independent police auditor for the City of San Jose in 2010. Throughout her career, Judge Cordell has sought to give a voice to the unheard. I am grateful that she is willing and available to serve in this critical role.

The work of the special task force will be informed by an independent fact-finding effort. Myron “Mike” D. Moye, a partner at law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, has been retained to conduct the fact-finding effort and produce a report that will be presented to the special task force. Moye has extensive experience in cases involving harassment, discrimination, ethics and regulatory compliance.

The fact finding will begin immediately and seeks to:

  1. Determine, to the extent possible, what happened, when it happened, and who the alleged perpetrators are.
  2. Determine when and how the campus knew of the alleged incident, or should have known of it.
  3. Determine how and when the campus administration responded to the alleged incident.
  4. Determine whether the campus or any of its employees violated any existing campus or systemwide policies in responding to the alleged incident.  Determine the extent to which such policies, procedures and practices were followed.

Moye has been asked to produce his report by January 31, 2014. The special task force will receive the report and begin its work in February, and issue a final public report by April 30. Task force members will include a diverse mixture of SJSU students, faculty and staff members and alumni; subject-matter experts within the California State University; and community members.  Its membership will be finalized by January 15.

Let me also update you on two related matters.

As many of you know, San Jose State has undertaken previous efforts to make diversity an intentional, holistic element of our teaching and learning mission. In spring 2013, we solicited nominations for a Commission on Diversity. Its members were appointed in August 2013 and the group met for the first time this fall. The commission will meet again this month and will have the opportunity to consider the recommendations of the special task force in its work going forward.

In an earlier message to you, I outlined plans for a forum on racial intolerance to be held on campus in the first two weeks of December. After consultation with student groups, we are postponing this event to early next year in order to maximize participation. We need students to play a prominent role in planning the gathering, and there is insufficient time to do this now as they are preparing for final exams.

I appreciate the many ways our community has responded in the last two weeks.  Much work lies ahead.  A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established. Please continue to reach out to me, and to one another.

Sincerely,
Mohammad Qayoumi
President

President’s Update: Holding Ourselves Accountable

University Housing Campus Village

“We will re-examine our diversity programs and safety measures within campus housing and throughout the university.” —President Qayoumi (Photo: Christina Olivas)

President Qayoumi emailed the following statement to all faculty, staff and students regarding alleged hate crimes in SJSU’s student housing complex. A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established.

Dear Spartans,

When I expressed outrage last Thursday at the race-based abuse and mistreatment of an African-American SJSU freshman by several suite mates, I did not clearly express our accountability for what he endured.

By failing to recognize the meaning of a Confederate flag, intervene earlier to stop the abuse, or impose sanctions as soon as the gravity of the behavior became clear, we failed him. I failed him.

How such abuse could have gone unchecked or undetected for weeks is being methodically untangled, as it must. An independent expert will soon be named to lead a task force that will examine the facts, our policies and practices, and propose reforms.

Some anger is being directed toward residence hall advisers (RAs) for failing to recognize or act on warning signs of abuse. It is our job as professional educators to help them recognize these signs. Their failures are our failures. We must do a better job of training them, and we will.

If our housing and student disciplinary policies and processes are inadequate or not followed, it is up to us as administrators to ensure that they work, or fix them.

Now, let me update you on specifically what we have done and are doing:

  • Sunday night, SJSU faculty leaders and administrators, including housing staff, met with students in the Dining Commons. I heard plenty of pain, anger and confusion, questions about our commitment to diversity, and pleas to be included in future decisions.
  • As I shared on Friday, the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP will be on campus at noon today in front of the Smith/Carlos sculpture to express dissatisfaction with pending criminal charges and ask for a full examination of this incident.

I will participate in this event, and encourage you to attend if you can. The abusive conduct that occurred in this case should be punished, to the fullest extent that the law allows.

  • We will continue listening. More sessions with students are in the works and an open campus forum will take place during the first two weeks of December.
  • Additional training for RAs is being planned. Details will follow soon.
  • We have begun reaching out to candidates to serve on the external task force. If you have suggestions, please send them to sjsupres@sjsu.edu.

Sincerely,
Mohammad Qayoumi
President

Brandon Crew Photo

NAACP: News Conference Nov. 25 at SJSU

Photo: Brandon Chew, ’15 Photojournalism

San Jose State is sharing the following on behalf of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP. Media inquiries should be directed to Rick Callender, callenderr@aol.com.

On Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, at noon in front of the Tommie Smith and John Carlos sculpture on the San Jose State campus, the San Jose/Silicon Valley National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will be joined by the California/Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP, the National Office of the NAACP, San Jose State University leadership, Bay Area community leaders and civil rights activists in a press conference condemning the actions of the three San Jose State students accused of racially harassing and terrorizing a black student.

The NAACP will be calling for the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office to increase the misdemeanor charges against the three accused SJSU students to felony charges, and also to add the charges of false imprisonment to the charges that the students currently face.

Reverend Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP said, “The community will not stand idly by and allow for any student of color to be terrorized simply due to the color of his skin. This is not simple hazing or bullying, this is obviously racially based terrorism targeted at their African American roommate. The behavior of these three students warrants nothing less than felony charges.”

The NAACP will also be calling on the San Jose State University administration to conduct a thorough investigation into University Housing to determine how this situation continued for so long and why no immediate action to rectify the situation was taken.

President’s Update: Listening, Learning

President Qayoumi’s update to the campus community following the alleged hate crimes in SJSU’s student housing complex. A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established.

“This deeply disturbing incident reaffirms that we must protect and steward our values. I am proud of all who marched in support of them.” —President Qayoumi (Photo: Brandon Chew)

Dear Spartans,

I want to update you on our actions since yesterday (Thursday, Nov. 21) when criminal arrest warrants were issued for several SJSU students accused of racially-motivated hate crimes against a fellow student and residence hall suite-mate.

First, a fourth SJSU student has been suspended in connection with this incident. His actions came to light recently in the course of several ongoing investigations.

Second, I met Friday morning with the Reverend Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP. Reverend Moore and I agreed to several actions:

• Appearing together at a noon press conference on Mon., Nov. 25, in front of the Smith/Carlos sculpture to discuss pending criminal charges.

• Co-hosting a campus forum during the first two weeks of December, inviting community input about racial tolerance at SJSU and beginning a dialogue on how to heal rifts.

• Offering a spring 2014 lecture series on issues of diversity and tolerance.

While these efforts move forward, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of SJSU’s student code of conduct. Our goal is including race-based misconduct in existing zero-tolerance student conduct policies.

Third, we will review all of our practices and policies related to preserving and protecting the well being of students. This work has already begun. I have asked for a report by Dec. 15, and we will share it with you.

I will continue to keep you updated.

Sincerely,

Mohammad Qayoumi
President

President’s Update: Racial Intolerance

President Qayoumi emailed the following statement to all faculty, staff and students regarding alleged hate crimes in SJSU’s student housing complex.A website summarizing all relevant reports, updates and messages has been established.

Dear Spartans,

As many of you know, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office has filed criminal charges against three San Jose State students accused of recurrent abusive behavior toward a fellow student in their residence hall suite this fall.

Let me be clear: I am outraged and saddened by these allegations. They are utterly inconsistent with our long cherished history of tolerance, respect for diversity and personal civility. The three students suspected of this conduct have been suspended, effective today.

The misdemeanor battery charges include a hate-crime enhancement based on indications that the victim, an African-American freshman, was targeted based on race. I want you to know how San Jose State has responded thus far, and our intentions moving forward.

Our paramount initial concern was the safety of the victimized student. The day our housing staff learned of the situation, the University Police Department launched an investigation. Also that day, two of the accused students were relocated to separate residence halls and not placed with roommates.

A third suite-mate, originally believed to be a bystander, was identified yesterday as an offender. We regret he was not removed from the victim’s suite before today.

Parallel internal inquiries, one based on university student conduct policies and another focused on federal anti-discrimination regulations, are ongoing.

We speak very directly to all freshmen about discrimination and harassment during orientation and at hall meetings. We will re-examine our diversity programs and safety measures within campus housing and throughout the university.

Diversity and a commitment to social justice are in SJSU’s institutional DNA. Our library is named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; many of us pass daily by the sculpture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos or under the Cesar E. Chavez Arch. This deeply disturbing incident reaffirms that we must protect and steward our values. I am proud of all who marched today in support of them.

I know many of you will have questions and concerns. Please feel free to
contact my office
.

Sincerely,

Mohammad Qayoumi
President
sjsupres@sjsu.edu