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San Jose State’s Vicious Racism No Surprise in Wake of 2011 Report

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

So what would you do if you had White students referring to their Black roommate with racial epithets, decorated their college suite with swastikas and Nazi symbols, and on top of it all tried to shackle the aforementioned Black roommate with a U-shaped bike lock?

Would you take action? Or call for a committee?

San Jose State knew what to do once the police reports were out: Call a news conference. Establish a campus-wide forum in December, a lecture series on racism and intolerance in the Spring.

So proactive!

It’s like all of it was on a shelf at the ready once some “panic” button was hit.

And believe me, just before Thanksgiving, school administrators saw the red button and hit it hard.

But before then, San Jose State (a commuter school in the Silicon Valley that is not Stanford, but not San Jose City College, and known historically for the Black Power salute of Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos) was happy to sit waiting for what they should have known was inevitable.

The college had a full 100-page report two years ago that talked about a toxic situation at the school that claimed racist behavior toward Black students was rampant. And the racism wasn’t just coming from other students, but professors and coaches, as well.

The report from an existing campus advisory group at the time called the Committee on Campus Climate was made up of students and faculty and used focus groups to come up with its findings on race.

Conducted by sociology associate professor Susan Bell Murray, the report was a comprehensive look at the experiences of all students, Blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese, White and gays.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Black students interviewed in focus groups reported:

· An ever-present expectation that, because of their skin color, they were not likely to measure up.

· A feeling that others expected them to speak for the whole race and about racial stereotypes.

· A sense of racist treatment; one student said a professor refused to recognize her raised hand and later called on a White student.

· Black athletes felt criticized for low-slung pants and hats while similarly attired White teammates in the same group were left alone.

Murray also pointed out to administrators how Whites felt “invisible” and how gays thought they made administrators feel uncomfortable.

Good actionable intel, right?

But the school threw cold water on it, thanked the committee, and that was that.

Must not have been enough vice presidents on the committee.

Sure enough, school officials last week downplayed the old report, saying there wasn’t anything new about the findings and that the new president simply wanted a new committee that would be “empowered” to enact change—and led by two vice presidents.

There’s a lesson here for those in higher education, known for its arcane bureaucratic politics that has killed many a good idea.

First, if you want to do something for real, make sure you include your vice presidents.

And then, if you want to be taken seriously by the higher ups, don’t call yourself the Campus Climate Committee or the Committee on Campus Climate.

They may think you’re talking about the air conditioning or greenhouse gases.

And if it’s an idea about race, throw the word “diversity” in there somewhere.

You may need one less vice president to be taken seriously.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( Like him at ; twitter@emilamok

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