SAN JOSE -- A San Jose State lecturer accused by a student last August of sexual assault is no longer at the university.
University President Mo Qayoumi announced the departure of Jeffry Mathis in a carefully worded message last week to¿ a group of students who demanded Mathis' ouster in a petition on change.org.
The students were outraged by an NBC 11 story that aired last month in which a crying, unidentified student accused Mathis of straddling and groping her in a secluded office and not letting her leave when she came to ask about her grade. Their petition, posted in May, received more than 600 signatures.
"We care very deeply for this school," said Sasha Bassett, one of the San Jose State students involved in the campaign. "The fact that it had gone nine months unresolved disgusted and hurt us."
Qayoumi's message, emailed by his chief of staff to Bassett and several other students, assured the group that the administration was also concerned and noted that the university strives to "promptly, carefully and thoroughly" investigate all such complaints.
"Regarding the allegations made in the news report, the University conducted a thorough internal investigation in addition to a police investigation immediately after the student filed the complaint," the email concluded.
"Based on those investigations, the University took appropriate action. Because this is a personnel matter, the specific details of the actions taken are confidential. However, Mr. Mathis is no longer employed by SJSU."
Attempts to contact Mathis were not immediately successful. San Jose State's campus police began investigating the case on the night of the alleged attack and referred the case to the Santa Clara County district attorney last fall, said SJSU spokeswoman Pat Harris. The D.A.'s office did not file charges, said the agency's public information officer, Lisa McCrary. The student who filed the complaint against Mathis with campus police told NBC she met the kinesiology lecturer in the Spartan Complex to ask why he had given her a D+ the past semester.
"He looked at me and touched me and said, 'How do you want to better your grade?'" the student said in the recorded television interview. "He kept coming closer to me and my body completely shut down. He continued to touch me and try to talk about the ways that I could better my grade."
Mathis apologized in an email to the student the following day, NBC reported -- and offered to change her grade "for free."
"I've been thinking about last night and I have come to the conclusion that I made a terrible mistake in how I handled that situation," the email reportedly said. "I will change your grade to a B- for free, because it is the right way to handle this."
The university has declined to discuss details of its handling of the case, but issued a statement about its commitment to the safety of students and employees.
In his message to students -- which was also released by a university spokeswoman -- Qayoumi wrote:
"We share your concern about the recent NBC 11 story describing an alleged sexual battery case at SJSU involving a lecturer, Jeffry Mathis and a female student. We are writing today to let you know that SJSU cares about and is firmly committed to providing a safe environment for everyone in the campus community.
"We strive to implement timely and appropriate actions to protect our community members, including promptly, carefully and thoroughly investigating all complaints, followed by appropriate responses and actions.
"If there is any reason to believe a crime has occurred or safety is at risk, the University Police Department is contacted, and if appropriate, the matter is referred to the Santa Clara County District Attorney."
Mathis appears to have been a popular academic. Students gave him good reviews on the site RateMyProfessors.com, remarking on his sense of humor and efforts to get to know his students. One student called him "socially aware," and wrote that "he really cares about students being comfortable in his class."
Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.