President Qayoumi's response to African American Student Organization Leaders

November 27, 2013

Dear African American Student Organization Leaders:

Thank you for your suggestions to improve San José State University for students of color. I share your desire for action that will improve the educational experience for all students, and I commit my administration to taking steps to review and revise as appropriate our policies and practices to ensure we provide a welcoming and nurturing environment.

You suggested several actions and we had an opportunity to discuss each of them earlier this week. As promised, I am writing to indicate that I heard you and my administration will explore each of them.

First, you asked that we make "African American Studies a GE requirement for every major". You are concerned about the proposed merger of the African American Studies department, and you think such an approach will not provide enough exposure about ethnic studies to our students. The Provost will work with the Academic Senate to review and provide a response that addresses your suggestion about requiring ethnic studies as a GE requirement.

Next, you asked for a "zero tolerance policy for racial harassment". I agree with you. We need to make sure that our university policies are clear and unequivocal. We will not tolerate racial harassment. We value free speech, but we will not tolerate symbols and actions that attack ethnic, religious or gender groups on our campus. I will issue a presidential directive.

You also stated that our "housing policies need to be examined". You suggested that we explore new ways to assign students to rooms in the dormitories, enhance training for the housing staff, and issue clear communication regarding the responsibility and accountability of students and housing staff. I agree. An investigation of our policies, procedures and operating practices is being conducted.

You made the point that "AfricanAmerican students need a place they can go if they need help." It is important that all of our students feel welcomed and safe on this campus and have a place to go. Our campus diversity is a vital asset that enriches our students' learning experience. Each student must be valued and respected. Making sure that our individual and institutional actions align with our words about valuing diversity is a key concern. An independent expert will lead a task force that includes students and faculty, to examine the facts, our policies and practices, and propose reforms. This is an important consideration and it will be a key area of focus for the task force.

I will continue to communicate with the campus and provide updates as to the actions that we are taking to prevent future hateful incidents and to promote student success. I appreciate your thoughtful suggestions. I ask you to give my administration an opportunity to respond with actions. We share a strong desire for improvement.

Mohammad H. Qayoumi