SAN JOSE -- Frustrated student leaders, some wearing tape over their mouths, rushed the stage Monday after San Jose State administrators and local NAACP leaders concluded a news conference on the arrest last week of four students charged with hate crimes against a black roommate.

The tape symbolized the complaint they brought to the stage: The school has not been listening to their concerns, and no one had invited them to take part in the news event.

"Last semester when we were protesting and requesting to meet with you, we were trying our hardest to let you know that something was terribly wrong with the experience that African-American students are having at San Jose State," said Gary Daniels, an SJSU student and chairman of the Black Unity Group, to school President Mo Qayoumi. "But you did not want to hear us."

The large gathering on Monday came hours after Qayoumi took personal responsibility for the campus not intervening sooner to stop the alleged abuse of a black student by his white roommates -- who had displayed a Confederate flag in the room and also collared him with a bicycle lock -- or to suspend the students before they were criminally charged last week.

"By failing to recognize the meaning of a Confederate flag, 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 said in a statement released Monday.

An independent expert will examine "how such abuse could have gone unchecked or undetected for weeks," and propose reforms, Qayoumi said.

Qayoumi appeared with civil rights leaders before the campus "black power" salute statue, where the NAACP called for felony charges -- rather than misdemeanors -- against the white freshmen accused of tormenting their black roommate.

"The community will not stand idly by and allow for any student of color to be terrorized simply due to the color of his skin," said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office filed misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges last week against Joseph Bomgardner, 19; Logan Beaschler and Colin Warren, both 18; and a fourth student who, as a minor, is not being named. All four have been suspended indefinitely.

At least two resident assistants asked the students to remove the Confederate flag from public view but did not pursue the matter, police reported.

Qayoumi has promised a full investigation and said the findings would be made public.

Monday was the president's first major public appearance since the news came to light last week, although he met with a group of students Sunday night.

Qayoumi earlier issued written statements on his outrage about the alleged bullying, but the sentiments weren't enough for Daniels and other students who said SJSU has a history of sweeping problems under the rug and ignoring student complaints.

Daniels said black student groups had tried for a year to meet with Qayoumi, and that they had sent him ideas for making black students -- who make up about 3 percent of the student body -- feel safer and more welcome on campus.

Joining students on stage was Denise Johnson, whose son Gregory Johnson Jr. was found dead at a fraternity house in November 2008. The black student's death was ruled a suicide by hanging, but Johnson still seeks a new investigation; she believes her son was killed in a hate crime.

"He died like a dog," she said, holding photos of her son's body while students comforted her.

Hate crimes may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Authorities said they consider such factors as the sophistication of the crime, the previous criminal records of the accused, the severity of their actions and the sentence a judge is likely to impose. In a statement issued Monday about the recent case, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that if convicted of the misdemeanor hate crimes, the men could face double punishment for the crimes and court-ordered payments to agencies that serve victims of hate violence -- and to their former roommate, for counseling or other expenses.

"While we understand the outrage of those calling for even stiffer charges in this case, the charges are not a reflection of the degree of their racism," Rosen said. "The charges are a reflection of their criminal conduct."

Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this story. Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.By Katy Murphy

SAN JOSE -- Frustrated student leaders, some wearing tape over their mouths, rushed the stage Monday after San Jose State administrators and local NAACP leaders concluded a news conference on the arrest last week of four students charged with hate crimes against a black roommate.

The tape symbolized the complaint they brought to the stage: The school has not been listening to their concerns, and no one had invited them to take part in the news event.

"Last semester when we were protesting and requesting to meet with you, we were trying our hardest to let you know that something was terribly wrong with the experience that African-American students are having at San Jose State," said Gary Daniels, an SJSU student and chairman of the Black Unity Group, to school President Mo Qayoumi. "But you did not want to hear us."

The large gathering on Monday came hours after Qayoumi took personal responsibility for the campus not intervening sooner to stop the alleged abuse of a black student by his white roommates -- who had displayed a Confederate flag in the room and also collared him with a bicycle lock -- or to suspend the students before they were criminally charged last week.

"By failing to recognize the meaning of a Confederate flag, 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 said in a statement released Monday.

An independent expert will examine "how such abuse could have gone unchecked or undetected for weeks," and propose reforms, Qayoumi said.

Qayoumi appeared with civil rights leaders before the campus "black power" salute statue, where the NAACP called for felony charges -- rather than misdemeanors -- against the white freshmen accused of tormenting their black roommate.

"The community will not stand idly by and allow for any student of color to be terrorized simply due to the color of his skin," said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office filed misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges last week against Joseph Bomgardner, 19; Logan Beaschler and Colin Warren, both 18; and a fourth student who, as a minor, is not being named. All four have been suspended indefinitely.

At least two resident assistants asked the students to remove the Confederate flag from public view but did not pursue the matter, police reported.

Qayoumi has promised a full investigation and said the findings would be made public.

Monday was the president's first major public appearance since the news came to light last week, although he met with a group of students Sunday night.

Qayoumi earlier issued written statements on his outrage about the alleged bullying, but the sentiments weren't enough for Daniels and other students who said SJSU has a history of sweeping problems under the rug and ignoring student complaints.

Daniels said black student groups had tried for a year to meet with Qayoumi, and that they had sent him ideas for making black students -- who make up about 3 percent of the student body -- feel safer and more welcome on campus.

Joining students on stage was Denise Johnson, whose son Gregory Johnson Jr. was found dead at a fraternity house in November 2008. The black student's death was ruled a suicide by hanging, but Johnson still seeks a new investigation; she believes her son was killed in a hate crime.

"He died like a dog," she said, holding photos of her son's body while students comforted her.

Hate crimes may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Authorities said they consider such factors as the sophistication of the crime, the previous criminal records of the accused, the severity of their actions and the sentence a judge is likely to impose. In a statement issued Monday about the recent case, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that if convicted of the misdemeanor hate crimes, the men could face double punishment for the crimes and court-ordered payments to agencies that serve victims of hate violence -- and to their former roommate, for counseling or other expenses.

"While we understand the outrage of those calling for even stiffer charges in this case, the charges are not a reflection of the degree of their racism," Rosen said. "The charges are a reflection of their criminal conduct."

Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this story. Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.

ONLINE
Read San Jose State President Mohammed Qayoumi's latest letter to the campus at www.mercurynews.com/education.