SAN JOSE -- When LaDoris Cordell on Thursday convenes a task force aimed at analyzing the racial climate at San Jose State, she will promise a probing process of inspecting and salving the many wounds of controversy resulting from the bullying of a black freshman -- an act that has roiled the campus community for four months.
"I want those folks to be courageous," Cordell, a retired judge, said about the 17 task force members. "We will talk frankly about what happened ... and ultimately figure out what rules, policies and procedures need to be changed, revised, done away with or newly created so nothing like this ever happens again."
Cordell's energetic remarks about the task force's work were in response to the release Monday of an independent report by a San Francisco attorney about the bullying of a black student by four white dormitory mates. The 52-page report -- along with a 200-page appendix and 147 pages of "exhibits" -- concluded that the university acted quickly and properly once it found out the torment had gone on for weeks.
Many activists, students and faculty, however, decried the report because it also suggested that the young victim did not report the harassment from the start of the fall semester in late August until October. That's when his parents entered his dorm suite and saw a Confederate flag displayed in a common area, along with a racial epithet scrawled on a white board.
It turned out the roommates had steadily taunted the young man with bigoted name-calling, had barricaded him in his room a number of times and had forcibly secured a U-shaped bike lock around his neck -- among other acts. The outraged parents made a report to campus authorities and by November the case went public as criminal hate-crime charges were about to be filed by Santa Clara County prosecutors.
Critics also faulted the author of the report, attorney Myron Foye, an African-American, for not talking to the victim or to the students primarily involved in the bullying.
"The report was just another way for the school to cover up something that is a real issue," said Tiera Caron, a senior at the university. "A hate crime occurred on this campus. When you live in a dormitory and racist things get displayed, resident advisers are supposed to be doing something about it. This school still has a problem, and it has nothing to do with whether the victim spoke up or not."
More anger is aimed at university President Mo Qayoumi who, according to the report, was kept in the dark about the situation until November. He had already drawn the ire of the black campus community because he dismissed a committee that in 2011 produced a critical 100-page report about the racial climate on campus.
"Qayoumi disbanded that committee and put his own into place, without background or history about the previous work done," said Walter Wilson, a board member of the African American Community Service Agency.
University officials have defended the move.
They say that Qayoumi, who became president in March 2011, disbanded the first committee shortly after he arrived at San Jose State because it only had the power to make recommendations. So, officials say, he replaced it with a new committee on diversity that included the provost and the vice-president of student affairs. Qayoumi has said his intent was to have a committee containing members who were already empowered to place new policies into action.
His critics, however, say that the new group met only once -- during the fall semester, as the unreported bullying situation was unfolding.
The task force slated to work under Cordell is made up of academics, students, community activists and alumni. The public is invited to attend Thursday's meeting -- in the San Jose State Engineering Building at 5:30 p.m. -- but will not participate until public sessions are held later.
Cordell, San Jose's independent police auditor, is aware of the disappointment over the report, but she thinks Moye's work is a fine re-examination of what happened and that it needed to be narrowly focused. The retired judge says the report will provide a map for her task force to:
"We will look at everything and figure out if the problems are only at San Jose State or at all the Cal State campuses," Cordell said of the six task force meetings scheduled through April. "We will also look at best practices at other schools. What does Stanford do? Or UCLA? We will be determined to come up with truly useful solutions for San Jose State and perhaps for campuses across the nation."
Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report. Contact David E. Early at (408) 920-5836
56 percent male
50 percent black
22 percent Hispanic
17 percent white
11 percent Asian/Pacific Islander
SJSU task force members
LaDoris Cordell, chair
Anthony Ross, CSU Los Angeles -- vice president, student affairs
Gabriella Gonzales, SJSU student
Willie Hagan, CSU Dominguez Hills president
Peter Lee, SJSU student, vice president, Associated Students
Gary Daniels, SJSU student, president Epsilon Mu chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Chris Cox, SJSU faculty, sociology
Ellen Lin, SJSU director of counseling
Marcos Pizarro, SJSU faculty, Mexican-American studies chair
Michael Randle, SJSU staff and lecturer, academic adviser and lecturer
Wayne Wright, SJSU administrator, head coach of women's gymnastics
Lynda Heiden, SJSU faculty, psychology professor and chair of SJSU Academic Senate
Maria Luisa Alaniz, SJSU faculty, interdisciplinary social sciences
DeLorme McKee Stovall, SJSU alumnus, manager of Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations
Bernadette Cheyne, Humboldt State professor, former CSU trustee
Diana Zhen, SJSU student
Gabriel Rodriguez, SJSU student
Rick Callender, California/Hawaii NAACP chapter, second vice president