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Nov 26, 2013 08:37 AM EST

SJSU President Takes Responsibility for Failing to Protect Black Freshman from Hate Crimes (UPDATE)

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Mohammad Qayoumi, the 60-year-old president of San Jose State University, accepted responsibility for failing to protect a black freshman against racial discrimination from four white students, mid-August to October. At least three of the suspects are believed to be his roommates.

By failing to "intervene earlier to stop the abuse, or impose sanctions as soon as the gravity of the behavior became clear, we failed him. I failed him," Qayoumi, an Afghan native who is reported to have experienced prejudice himself, said in a statement.

"How such abuse could have gone unchecked or undetected for weeks is being methodically untangled, as it must. An independent expert will soon be named to lead a task force that will examine the facts, our policies and practices, and propose reforms."

"Somewhere our decision-making failed here. As part of it, I failed this student," Qayoumi said, Mercury News reports.

Prosecutors described the alleged victim to be a "mild-mannered, sweet id" who was physically frightened of the consequences from his roommates if he reported the mistreatment. The victim's name has not been released to protect his identity.

The victim "really wanted to just get along. I think he hoped this would go away, and I think another big part of it was he was physically scared of them," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West said, abc reports.

"There were mean tricks played on him -- barricading him in his bedroom and putting their hands on him to put this bike lock around his neck," West said. "It seems clear the motivation for that battery was motivated by hate."

West said that the teen spent significantly less time in his suite and went home on the weekends to run away from the abuse and taunts from the freshmen. In one instance, when his parents saw the N-word on a dry erase board and the confederate flag in his suite, they immediately filed a complaint with college officials.

Pat Harris, San Jose State University spokeswoman said that an investigation was initiated the same day the housing staff learnt about the allegations.

Qayoumi said that the alleged cruelty could have been prevented if the issue was addressed faster.

"Some anger is being directed toward residence hall advisers (RAs) for failing to recognize or act on warning signs of abuse. It is our job as professional educators to help them recognize these signs. Their failures are our failures," he said. "We must do a better job of training them, and we will."

On Monday, NAACP National Board member Alice Huffman called for felony charges against the accused students.

"They were motivated by racial hate and planned in concert with intentional, premeditated offenses that rise to the level of a federal hate crime," Huffman said, CBS local reports.

Along with NCAAP, Qayoumi is also calling for upgrading the charges.

 "When you look at such heinous crimes as this, they certainly are no minor offense," Qayoumi said.

Currently, the four students have been placed on interim suspension pending the result of the investigation.

 

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