Victim of Racial Discrimination Files $5 Million Claim against SJSUBy Staff Reporter, UniversityHerald Reporter
Donald Williams, a 18-year-old African-American student who was a victim of racial discrimination last fall, filed a $5 million damages claim against San Jose State University.
The claim was filed with the California State University Office of Risk Management by attorney Carl E. Douglas. It has named the university, its president Mohammad Qayoumi, and a school housing adviser among others, as the defendants.
Authorities said that four white students, with whom the teenager shared a dormitory suite, racially provoked and harassed him from September 23 to October 31, 2013.
The claim said that Williams' roommates displayed Nazi imagery and Confederate flag in their dormitory, attempted to fasten a U-shape bicycle lock around his neck, used racial slurs like "three-fifths" or "fraction", barricaded him in his room and threatened him with a golf club.
Charles May, a student housing assistant was reportedly aware of the harassment more than a month before the teen's parents complained to campus officials, according to the claim. The claim stated that the California University failed to protect the student from racist mischief and investigate the discrimination sooner, violating his civil rights.
"The president of San Jose State has said the university has failed this young man, and it has," Douglas told the Mercury News. "Our hope is this claim sparks a conversation about racial bullying that is occurring not just at San Jose State, but at UCLA, at the University of Michigan and other institutions of higher learning."
Douglas plans to file a lawsuit if the University rejects his claim.
"When there can be this level of bullying at San Jose State University, a bastion of progressive thought, that should be a bellwether for everyone nationwide," Douglas told Reuters. "I want there to be a conversation started by the filing of this claim... there are issues of racial intolerance, of bullying and of harassment running rampant in universities and colleges across this nation."
Three of the teen's former roommates, Colin Warren, 18, Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Logan Beaschler, 18, will face misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges. They are currently suspended from school and have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The fourth defendant is a minor and details about his case have not been disclosed yet
The school's president apologized and has launched several investigations. A university-appointed task force will recommend changes to policies and procedures related to the incident April 2014.