By Sara Hossaini, Mina Kim and Lisa Pickoff-White
San Jose State University students are expressing anger and confusion over the alleged race-based harassment of an African American student by several of his roommates. Prosecutors say the black student endured racial slurs and injuries when his roommates put a bicycle lock around his neck. The NAACP called on Monday for felony charges against the four students accused of misdemeanor hate crimes and battery.
“This is a deeply disturbing, outrageous case and must be properly prosecuted as a felony in order to enforce hate crime victim rights,” said NAACP California President Alice Huffman.
Santa Clara County’s District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement that the perpetrators have been charged with the most serious crimes on the facts to date.
San Jose State University President Mohammad Qayoumi is taking personal responsibility for the weeks-long harassment.
“All of the processes that we have on campus did not work,” Qayoumi told KQED’s Mina Kim. “I’m responsible for the actions of all of our staff. I take that responsibility personally.”
Some students have criticized Qayoumi’s handling of the situation, saying that the president has been inaccessible. The San Jose Mercury News reported:
“Last semester when we were protesting and requesting to meet with you, we were trying our hardest to let you know that something was terribly wrong with the experience that African-American students are having at San Jose State,” said Gary Daniels, an SJSU student and chairman of the Black Unity Group, to school President Mo Qayoumi. “But you did not want to hear us.”
Qayoumi says that he is active and accessible, that he has held 49 town hall meetings since the fall of 2011 and regularly attends student events and the academic senate.
“[My] reaction was anger, dismay,” he said. “We have always taken a lot of pride in our diversity and our great community.”
An independent expert will investigate how the abuse could have gone unnoticed. The four students have been suspended from the university as the case works its way through the student conduct process.