SAN JOSE -- Reacting to widespread outrage over an alleged hate crime against a black student, San Jose State on Thursday appointed a retired African-American judge who is the city's police watchdog to oversee a new task force investigating the notorious incident.

The university also announced it hired a prominent black San Francisco lawyer with experience handling sensitive issues to conduct an independent review and produce a report for the task force.

The move comes a week after student protesters demanded action from school leaders who were also under fire for tabling a study that found racial and ethnic groups on campus felt they were experiencing prejudice.

San Jose State University students gather around the 1968 Olympic statue that celebrates Black Power to protest Thursday afternoon Nov. 21, 2013, the
San Jose State University students gather around the 1968 Olympic statue that celebrates Black Power to protest Thursday afternoon Nov. 21, 2013, the reported racial hazing of an African-American freshman by his dormitory roommates. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Beginning in February, LaDoris H. Cordell will head the task force of students, faculty, employees and others, which will probe the school's handling of the case in which white students tormented a black roommate for weeks in a dorm.

"Throughout her career, Judge Cordell has sought to give a voice to the unheard," SJSU President Mo Qayoumi said Thursday in a statement. "I am grateful that she is willing and available to serve in this critical role."

Cordell, the San Jose police auditor and former Santa Clara County judge, said Thursday she is hopeful the task force will make recommendations by the end of April, before the school year ends and students leave for the summer.

"We'll see where things fell through the cracks and what needs to be done to make sure this never happens again," Cordell said.

She said she expects the task force will listen closely to students before issuing recommendations.

"It's so important that the voice of those most impacted -- the students -- be heard in this process, so the recommendations have real meaning,'' Cordell said.

Myron "Mike" D. Moye, a lawyer specializing in harassment, discrimination, ethics and regulatory compliance, will conduct the school's fact-finding investigation of a case that led to criminal charges against four San Jose State freshmen.

The young men are accused of using racial slurs against their roommate, calling him "three-fifths," snapping a bicycle lock around his neck and barricading him in his bedroom.

Moye's report is expected to be completed by the end of January, Qayoumi announced Thursday. Moye will try to determine:

  • When and how the campus administration learned of the dorm-room situation, or should have known about it.

  • How and when the administration responded.

    Students gather in front of the San Jose State University dorms during a march that coincided with an NAACP press conference at San Jose State University
    Students gather in front of the San Jose State University dorms during a march that coincided with an NAACP press conference at San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Students were seeking a voice in light of the recent racial hate crime that occurred when four white students allegedly abused their African-American roommate while living in the school dorms. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

  • Whether the campus or employees violated existing campus or CSU policies in responding, and the extent to which such policies, procedures and practices were followed.

    Beginning in February, the task force will use the report to make recommendations "for ensuring that San Jose State is a safe, welcoming, tolerant community."

    The task force's membership will be set by Jan. 15 and it will issue a public report by April 30, Qayoumi said.

    One student leader said he was glad to see that someone outside the university would lead the probe. "Our group would like to be on it," said Gary Daniels, president of the campus's Black Unity Group. "It should definitely involve the student organizations that have been trying to raise these issues."

    Daniels and other students and faculty have criticized Qayoumi's leadership.

    The president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP praised Cordell's selection, calling it "a good start."

    "But when the task force comes back with its findings, we'll see. I hope they have the backbone to make the changes," said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II.

    Even small steps might make a difference, he said. For instance, the university's website now only encourages students to report sexual assaults, not hate crimes.

    Cordell has argued that the four San Jose State freshmen accused of the harassment should face felony charges, not misdemeanors -- a position also taken by the NAACP.

    "What is the message that these misdemeanor charges send to the accused?" she asked in an column published in this newspaper. "Bully, intimidate, and racially torment your African-American roommate and it's not really that serious. If the allegations are true, these sadly misguided young men, as well as other students who might be tempted to behave in this fashion, are in need of 'felony' wake-up calls."

    Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.