San Jose State University announced that three students had been suspended for alleged racial bullying of their African American roommate following a protest attended by about 500 people today. The three 18-year-old freshman students, Logan Beaschler of Bakersfield, Joseph Bomgardner of Clovis and Colin Warren of Woodacre, were charged with misdemeanor hate crime and battery Wednesday, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
The young men, who are white, are accused of placing a bike lock around the neck of the African American freshman, calling him a racial name “three-fifths” and hanging a Confederate flag in the eight-person student housing suite they shared on the SJSU campus. The roommates also allegedly wrote an anti-black slur on a white board, decorated the suite with Nazi symbols and photographs of Adolf Hitler, barricaded the student in his room and injured him while trying to place the lock on him a second time, according to prosecutors.
University Police Chief Peter Decena said at a campus news conference this afternoon that the department was attempting to contact Beaschler, Bomgardner and Warren to arrange for them to self-surrender so that police may arrest them on the hate crime and battery charges. William Nance, the university’s vice president of the student affairs, said at the conference that the three students were suspended as of today and it would take “several months” for a student conduct review process to play out before they may be formally suspended from campus. Nance said that university president Mohammad Qayoumi, who is in Wisconsin on university business, “feels the same way we all feel. This is pretty outrageous, it’s sad; it’s in my words disgusting. It’s behavior that is shocking to see that still occurs in 2013.”
He acknowledged that the incidents happened in a student residence hall between August and October without being reported or noticed by university officials. “It’s stunning to me that it would be able to continue for a period of time without somebody saying this just isn’t right,” Nance said. “It just doesn’t make sense.” Nance said that the housing staff immediately contacted university police after the victim’s parents notified them about the incidents and two of the defendants were transferred to other student housing units. The third student was identified as a suspected offender only on Wednesday, according to Qayoumi in a prepared statement. The university’s student conduct investigation centers on “discrimination, harassment and retaliation” by the three white students against the black student, Nance said.
At noon today, Nance and other members of the university administration marched with about 500 students and faculty members through campus to protest the racial incidents. He was among the speakers who addressed students at a post-march gathering at the statues honoring John Carlos and Tommie Smith, two black SJSU students who made the “black power” salute after winning medals at the Olympic games in Mexico in 1968. Marchers of all ethnic groups started walking from a complex of high-rise student dormitories and chanted “No Justice, No Peace” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!” as they made their way through campus to the statues beside Clark Hall, which houses the university’s administrative offices.
One student watching the demonstration, Briana Smith, 20, a junior sociology major who is black, said that she had heard some of the details, including a Confederate flag and Nazi symbols in a student dormitory, before the three men were charged. “But I didn’t know there was actually a black roommate being harassed,” Smith said. “I only learned that yesterday. Me and my roommates were talking and it made us so angry. We were surprised that this had been going on for months, and it shouldn’t have been, especially since the RAs (resident advisors for student housing) are on duty all the time.” “I’m surprised something like that would happen at this school,” Smith said. Victor Amadi, a 23-year-old senior majoring in justice studies who lives in student housing and who also is black, described the racially tinged incidents against the black dormitory resident as “somewhat sickening.”
“I’m the only African American now in the dorm, the suite, and I have four other Caucasian males in there with me, and I have to say probably my first day the reception I received from them was not all that welcoming, so I can feel for the individual.” Amadi said that he thought that racial prejudice on the SJSU campus “is not overt but it’s kind of embedded in the system. It’s not easy to identify.” Gary Daniels, 21, an African American political science senior who helped organize today’s march, told the crowd that the university had a problem, “and that problem is African American students.”
“The African American student population currently sits at 935, that’s less than three percent of the 30,000 people who currently attend San Jose State, making that the lowest population in 30 years,” Daniels said. Less than 40 percent of African American students at the college graduate within six years, Daniels said. Jonathan Karpf, 58, an anthropology lecturer and one of the white faculty members to join the march, told the crowd “any injury to one is an injury to all. We are better than this.”
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