SAN JOSE -- San Jose State's embattled president has issued a public apology, vowing to "right the ship" after a rocky year and widespread criticism led the statewide chancellor to an unprecedented public review of the campus's leadership.

In a joint statement with California State University Chancellor Timothy White, SJSU President Mo Qayoumi acknowledged in a campus-wide letter late Friday that he had moved too rapidly in his excitement to improve the campus and "stepped on" and "harmed" a tradition of cooperation among staff, students and faculty.

"For this, I am regretful," he wrote in the letter, which included a detailed plan to improve the school's governance.

Qayoumi came to San Jose State in late 2011 and has drawn intense criticism for his experiments with online education, his budget cutting directives, and decisions to replace existing campus diversity initiatives with his own. A crisis over a dorm-room bullying incident that resulted in criminal hate-crime charges against four students ignited a campus protest and raised more questions about his leadership.

The public display of contrition, coupled with the action plan and chancellor's support of it, was unusual, even for a public university, observers said.

Without directly criticizing Qayoumi, White made clear his expectations of the president in a call for real discussions, said Larry Gerston, a political-science professor at San Jose State.

"I think there's a short leash here," Gerston said.

Last November, citing poor communication and low morale, San Jose State's Academic Senate asked White to step in and repair the faculty's fractured relationship with the administration. Qayoumi -- a member of the Academic Senate -- supported the resolution, which did not mention him by name.

White agreed to intervene, possibly marking the first such review of a CSU campus. A spokesman for the chancellor's office said he could not recall a similar governance review; neither could Diana Wright Guerin, who has served in the statewide CSU Academic Senate since 2004.

Clashes between faculty and administration more commonly result in a vote of no-confidence; by contrast, the public discourse at San Jose State has been remarkably measured and thoughtful, said William B. Tierney, who co-directs Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California.

"Given that CSU is a public institution," he said, "that they are having a public conversation about this, however difficult it might be, I think is important not only to the students and the faculty but to the taxpayer."

The Academic Senate's appeal to the chancellor came shortly after an 11th-hour directive to cut department budgets that was quickly reversed following a campus outcry. Online education initiatives were another source of controversy with the faculty.

Just days after it passed the resolution, allegations surfaced that a black student had been repeatedly bullied in a residence hall by his white roommates, an incident that triggered another investigation. That review also highlighted communication problems among top campus leaders.

Last month San Jose State appointed a new provost, Andy Hale Feinstein, and announced its longtime vice-president of student affairs, Bill Nance, was stepping down.

White wrote that fixing the problems will require "authentic consultation among campus, faculty, student and staff leaders ... that will lead to informed and strategic decisions."

"I am encouraged that President Qayoumi has set a course to do so ..." he wrote.

The executive committee of the Academic Senate has signed the corrective action plan, which includes:

  • Setting rules for consulting campus groups,

  • A new budget committee to focus on clear communication of the budget and expenditures to the campus,

    n Improving communication and relationships among members of the president's cabinet and among those leaders and others on campus

    Qayoumi was not giving interviews Monday, said spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris.

    White said he would periodically review the campus's progress. "The voices of campus members have been clearly heard," he wrote, "and I thank them for raising them."

    The chancellor's letter also was significant for what it didn't say, Gerston said. This was a time to mention his "full confidence" in Qayoumi, he said.

    "As a public document, it does not show me confidence in the president," he said. "It shows me hope in the process."

    Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.