San Jose State University Students Denounce Board Member's Alleged Racist Statement

A board member of the university’s philanthropic organization is accused of making disparaging remarks against Latinas.

San Jose State University students gathered on campus Monday to call for the university president to remove a donor from a board seat in the wake of what they called the "most recent incident of racism" on campus.

About 30 members of Members of Students for Racial Equality gathered outside the office of President Mo Qayoumi in the morning to hold a press conference denouncing the alleged statements of a member of the board of the Tower Foundation, the philanthropic organization of the university, last February.

According to the student group, the board member, whose identity has not been revealed, allegedly spoke of Latinas pejoratively during a meeting with several employees.

“I contribute to this university because these little Latinas do not have the DNA to be successful,” the board member allegedly said.

On the Facebook page called SJSU Student Coalition for Accountability - SCSA, the student group claims that one of President Qayoumi’s staffers was present at the meeting when the controversial words but said nothing.

A Hispanic employee who was also at the meeting lodged an informal complaint, but after SJSU did not take action, the employee decided to file a formal complaint, "according to the protocol of the university," the student group wrote.

Qayoumi’s staff said he wasn't available Monday, but he did release a statement saying in part, “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.”

The group said the university conducted research this semester, but the result has not been shared with the university community.

Given the allegations, Qayoumi confirmed in a statement the complaint was filed in the Office of Human Resources in August and subsequently carried out a "formal external review."

"A report based on such review was provided to my office for days and now we are studying carefully to determine the appropriate steps to take," Qayoumi said in the statement.

Students said they will continue to rally until the board member is removed and an apology from the administration is given.

Qayoumi added that his administration is serious about incidents of intolerance following the 2013 case of an African-American freshman who claimed his roommates used racial slurs against him, in addition to hanging Nazi paraphernalia and even a Confederate flag from the walls.

The university didn’t offer a timeline Monday of when action, if any, will be taken.

Telemundo Area de la Bahia contributed to this report.

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