SAN JOSE -- Anger and disbelief fueled a protest beneath San Jose State's towering Black Power statue Thursday and echoed across the nation, as the school announced it has suspended three white students charged with a hate crime over allegations they racially bullied their black roommate.
"No justice! No peace!" students shouted, protesting the treatment of a black student by his white roommates, three of whom could go to jail for year if convicted of the misdemeanor charges.
The roommates are accused of clamping a bicycle lock on the student's neck, taunting him with a racial epithet and slurs, and barricading him inside his bedroom in the suite they shared.
Facing mounting pressure to take action after this newspaper on Wednesday exposed the alleged hazing, university officials held an extraordinary news conference. They apologized for what happened but stopped short of saying what they could have done differently -- or what they will do in the future.
"It's stunning to me that it would be able to continue for a period of time without somebody saying, 'This isn't right,'" said William Nance, the school's vice president of academic affairs.
But Nance stopped short of blaming housing employees for failing to protect the student, despite reports that at least two residence assistants knew about a Confederate flag displayed in the room and asked the residents to take it down. He described the ordeal as "a learning experience" for the department.
"Were there other actions that could have been taken? Perhaps," he said.
Nance also spoke at the rally, announcing the three students' suspensions, which could lead to expulsions after a disciplinary hearing. Students at the rally demanded to know why San Jose State President Mo Qayoumi wasn't there to hear their concerns. He was out of state Thursday, but the school released a statement in which he said the allegations "outraged and saddened" him.
"They are utterly inconsistent with our long cherished history of tolerance, respect for diversity and personal civility," he said.
Prosecutors have charged the men with misdemeanor hate-crime and battery for the incidents. One of them -- Logan Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield -- turned himself in Thursday. He declined to comment when reached by this newspaper. The others -- Joseph Bomgardner, 19, of Clovis; and Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre -- are expected to surrender this week and could not be reached.
In just the single day since the story broke, anger boiled over among students, professors, instructors and alums.
At noon on Thursday a large gathering of students marched across campus to the famed 22-foot-high statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, San Jose State alums who famously raised "Black Power" clenched fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The ethnically diverse crowd passionately called for the university to swiftly strike down open racism.
"This is the Bay Area, and it's easy to live in a bubble and believe there is no racism, no sexism and no homophobia," said Chris Cox, a San Jose State sociology lecturer. "But the truth is we live in a society that has a long way to go in the realm of race relations."
The students demanded the university include ethnic studies and zero tolerance for racial harassment in all major programs. About 3 percent of San Jose State's 33,000 students are African-American; 32 percent are Asian, 25 percent are white and 21 percent are Latino. Student protesters on Thursday also insisted the university write a letter of support to the bullied student.
In an exclusive statement to this newspaper, the victim's parents condemned the three men's behavior as "horrific" and noted they were responsible for reporting it after seeing the racial slur and Confederate flag during a visit to his suite.
"As a family, we are deeply disturbed by the horrific behaviors that have taken place against our son. WE have taken a stand on this matter. Our response prompted the community to be alerted of the appalling conduct of the students involved."
They also expressed gratitude for the community reaction.
"We appreciate the outpouring of support from our family, community and the efforts put forth by the Black Students Union."
"I'm still in shock," the freshman, now 18, told this newspaper in a brief telephone interview earlier this week. He said he tried not to spend much time in the suite and did not got to campus police in the hope the conduct would stop. I tried not to dwell on this. But my family is upset, and I'm upset."
According to police reports, the white roommates nicknamed the black freshman "Three-fifths," referring to the way the United States once counted blacks as a fraction of a person, according to police reports. When he protested, they dubbed him "Fraction."
They outfitted the four-bedroom dormitory suite they shared with a Confederate flag. They locked him in his room. They wrote the N-word on a dry-erase board in the living room.
Students are asking how the abuse went on for as long as eight weeks, in plain sight, before anyone stopped it.
"University housing needs to make it apparent that they know what's going on in those dormitories," said Tierney Yates, a former president of the Black Student Union and co-founder of the Black Unity Group."There's no reason why that flag should have been up."
The alleged bullying alarmed many parents whose children go to San Jose State.
"It shows that nothing has really changed for African-Americans," said Los Angeles resident Derek Holt, whose son is a San Jose State student.
"It could have been my son," said Chema, a Nigerian parent who asked that his last name not be used so his son doesn't become a target. "One of the things that attracted us to San Jose State was the diversity. The university needs to take action to show this will not be tolerated."
One leader on the 30,000-student campus said Thursday, "I'm shocked, but I'm not surprised."
Similar incidents have been bubbling up around the country, said Ruth Wilson, chairwoman of San Jose State's African-American Studies Department.
"We just cannot, as a civil society, allow people to unleash these hostilities on other human beings," she said. "We must act to make sure our students understand this type of thing cannot be tolerated."
Shock over the racial bullying spread across the country. District Attorney Jeff Rosen appeared in a CNN interview Thursday. He charged only three of the seven young men who lived in the suite but criticized the others.
"They did not stand up and do what was right here," he said, adding that there was no way these were mere pranks.
"I can't believe in the year 2013 we're talking about an African-American being treated like this."
Contact Katy Murphy at 510-208-6424 or email@example.com.