SAN JOSE -- San Jose State waited too long -- five weeks -- to discipline students accused of racially bullying their black roommate last fall, the head of a racial bias panel wrote in an initial recommendation.
"The swiftness of action by the University in response to misconduct sends a message to the campus community that these behaviors are not tolerated," wrote former Judge LaDoris Cordell. "When the response is a delayed one, the message is that the particular conduct is really not so bad."
Cordell heads a Special Task Force on Racial Discrimination convened by San Jose State in response to the alleged hate crime, in which freshmen called their black roommate racist nicknames, barricaded him in his room and fastened a bicycle lock around his neck.
Cordell and other task force members submitted initial proposals to discuss publicly Thursday evening.
The proposed recommendations call for better-staffed residence halls; more diversity training of employees and students; a mobile app for reporting hate crimes; a more diverse faculty; better communication with the campus president; and further study of campus climate and the academic challenges of black and Latino male students, among other changes.
The task force is scheduled to meet two more times after Thursday -- April 3 and 17 -- before releasing a final report about ways the campus can be made a healthier and more welcoming place for all students.
San Jose State spokeswoman Pat Lopes-Harris declined to comment on any of the suggestions. "It would be premature to comment on specific items while the task force is engaged in its work," she said in a written statement.
In an interview, Cordell said hate crimes happen everywhere, and that other institutions confronting similarly painful incidents should follow San Jose State's lead.
"We're doing something that most universities never do, which is put everything out in the open," she said. "It's been very good, very healthy."
State lawmakers are watching the campus, too. On Friday afternoon at San Jose State, the state Legislature's Select Committee on Campus Climate will hold its first of four hearings, led by Assemblywoman Shirley N. Weber, D-San Diego.
In Cordell's critique, she notes that the black freshmen's parents reported their suspicions on Oct. 13, but that the students weren't suspended until Nov. 20.
Cordell also recommends the university have two resident advisers -- students who live and work in the residence halls -- for every 50 students instead of one, and train them to recognize controversial or hate symbols.
The recommendation on hate symbols touched on one of the biggest questions about the case: Before campus employees suspected bullying, some of the alleged perpetrators had displayed a Confederate flag in a bedroom window that was visible to those walking outside the residence hall.
Tipped off by complaints, members of the housing staff asked the students to take it down, but they did not immediately investigate further; they also didn't realize an African-American student lived in the suite, according to a recent fact-finding report written by attorney Myron Moye. His report was released last month.
"The initial display of a Confederate flag in the window of the students' private bedroom should have, but did not, alert staff to the larger problem in the suite. It is also disconcerting that 'the display of controversial items was not an uncommon occurrence,'" Cordell wrote, citing a line from Moye's report.
Moye's report also noted that the bullied student was reluctant to report the abuse, telling friends he would prefer to handle things himself.
It found that the university did in some respects act swiftly and appropriately after residence hall staff learned about the extent of the bullying, which took place over several weeks in the fall semester.
Moye did note, however, that President Mo Qayoumi did not learn about the situation until Nov. 20, just as the district attorney's office filed misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges against the black freshman's alleged tormentors.
The committee meets from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Engineering Building, room 285/287.
Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.