San Jose State University students staged a protest Monday to voice disapproval with the way the school has handled accusations that a board member said Latina students “do not have the DNA to be successful."
Members of Students for Racial Equality and the Student Coalition for SJSU Accountability held a press conference Monday and marched to university President Mo Qayoumi’s office, SJSU junior Estelia Velasquez told The Huffington Post.
The statement and other remarks with a similar tone were allegedly made by Wanda Ginner, a board member on the university's philanthropic Tower Foundation, during a February meeting. Ginner denies having ever made the statements and says she is dedicated to supporting organizations that help Latinas, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
HuffPost sent a request for comment from Ginner to the head of the Tower Foundation and was told in response by a spokeswoman for SJSU that the administration isn't granting interviews at this time.
The groups learned of the incident through one of Velasquez’s professors, after a Latina administrator present at the meeting filed an informal complaint at the time and a formal complaint in August after she was not informed of any resolution. The students are upset that one of Qayoumi’s employees allegedly heard the comments and said nothing, that the investigation has been dragged out over months and that Qayoumi would not meet with them Monday.
“We just wanted to know what the status was and if they can make this a top priority, and it seems like they aren’t,” Velasquez told HuffPost.
When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for SJSU emailed HuffPost a letter that Qayoumi had sent to the campus community on Monday.
“In August, a formal complaint was lodged with our Human Resources office and a formal external review has been ongoing since then,” he wrote. “A report based on that review was provided to my office just days ago, and we are now closely reviewing it to determine appropriate next steps.”
He assured students that their concerns and demands are not being overlooked or mishandled.
“Although I know some have been frustrated by a perceived lack of action since this incident occurred, we owe it to everyone to thoughtfully, thoroughly and factually determine what occurred before taking action,” he continued.
The incident follows last year’s expulsion of three SJSU students who were charged with hate crimes and battery after tormenting their black roommate with racist attacks and confining him with a bicycle lock around his neck -- all incidents that the university police initially brushed off as college pranks. The university’s handling of the incidents prompted an apology from Qayoumi, who took personal responsibility for failing the attacked student.
Velasquez says the protesters are inviting students to share relevant experiences at an open forum on Nov. 20 and want them to know there is a community on campus that is listening.