San Jose State University’s president told about 500 students at a campus rally that he had “failed” a black student who was the alleged victim of hate crimes by four white roommates in a campus housing unit. “What has really happened has scrutinized the leadership that I have provided, and rightfully so,” president Mohammad Qayoumi said at the gathering on the SJSU campus that included black activists and elected officials. “Somewhere in the process our decision making failed,” Qayoumi said. “As part of it, I failed that student. And within that we failed all of our students. We need to look at all of our processes, the training we have for all of our staff.” Qayoumi spoke at a rally beside Clark Hall, the university’s administration building, as some students stood with black or red tape over their mouths or raised their fists in the “black power” salute.
The rally, organized San Jose/Silicon Valley National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was attended by elected officials including Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors members Ken Yeager and Mike Wasserman and San Jose City Councilmen Ash Kalra and Xavier Campos. Last week, four white SJSU students were suspended after the black freshman reported to university police that he had been subjected to racial slurs, barricaded inside his room and slightly injured while students tried to place a U-shaped bike lock over his neck for a second time. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor battery charges with a hate crime enhancement last Wednesday.
Prosecutors said that the students taunted the unidentified black student with the racial names “three-fifths” and “fraction,” hung up a Confederate flag and placed photos of Adolf Hitler and Nazi symbols inside the eight-person student housing suite they shared between August and mid-October. Alice Huffman, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, told students at today’s rally that the misdemeanor charges filed last week by District Attorney Jeff Rosen did not match the crime suffered by the black student. Huffman said that Rosen had the ability to enhance the misdemeanor charges related to hate crimes to felonies under California Penal Code 422.7 because the students “had the ability” to cause physical injury to the black student.
“This is a deeply disturbing outrageous case and must be prosecuted as a felony in order to enforce hate crime victim rights,” Huffman said. “We urge Mr. Rosen to take another look and move to a felony charge,” Huffman said. “The misdemeanor battery charges that include a hate-crime enhancement based on race are not enough and it sends an unclear message.” In response, Rosen said in a statement this afternoon that he was “shocked, outraged and saddened by the hateful and illegal conduct” by the students, but that his office would not increase the charges. “While we understand the outrage of those calling for even stiffer charges in this case, the charges are not a reflection of the degree of their racism,” Rosen said.
“The charges are a reflection of their criminal conduct.” “To date, we have charged the perpetrators with the most serious crimes based on the facts,” Rosen said. “It is important to understand that hate crime cases are often complex and witnesses can be slow to come forward. In as much, we consider this to be an ongoing investigation.” The four freshman students include Logan Beaschler of Bakersfield, Joseph Bomgardner of Clovis and Colin Warren of Woodacre and a fourth student who has not been identified because he was a juvenile at the time the incidents occurred, prosecutors said. The university has sent letters to the four telling them that they have about three weeks to request a hearing to appeal their suspensions, university vice president of student affairs William Nance said.
The students are prevented from setting foot at SJSU or any other campus of the entire California State University system and would face sanctions that could result in expulsion, which would permanently ban them from all CSU campuses, Nance said. Huffman said that the NAACP plans to contact state Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and “to review this case for possible State or Federal prosecution.” She also said she spoke with California Assembly Speaker John Perez about the SJSU incidents and Perez “indicated that he is going to hold oversight hearings and has been in touch with California State University Chancellor Timothy White.”
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