Racial Bullying Case Demonstrates the Challenges Associated With Incident Reporting
Investigation found San Jose State complied with its policies but didn’t provide enough executive oversight.
I just read the fact-finding investigative report on the series of racial bullying incidents that occurred at San Jose State University this fall. The investigation found that the school complied with relevant policies and past practices. The report did say, however, that “campus leadership did not follow its usual practice in its executive oversight of the incident.”
The report went on to conclude the following:
Although the allegations involving the Victim were disclosed on October 13, 2013, and reported to certain members of the President’s Cabinet (Vice President of Student Affairs and Vice President of Administration & Finance) as early as October 15, 2013, the incidents were not reported to the University President until October 26, 2013. At this time, the President was apprised of little more than an issue that was to be investigated. Subsequent to this report, which was delivered in a few minutes at a sporting event, the UPD completed its investigation of the matter and recommended that four students be charged with crimes ranging from assault with a deadly weapon to hate crimes – against another student. The President was not updated on this development when it occurred (October 29, 2013) and, in fact, received no update on the matter until November 20, 2013 just prior to announcement of the charges to be filed by the District Attorney. The President did not receive any further report from the Vice President of Student Affairs (who made the initial report on October 26) or from the Vice President of Finance & Administration (one his reports, the Police Chief, provided updates on the status of the investigation).
Similarly, the University’s Chief of Staff was not informed of any of the allegations concerning the Victim or the ongoing police investigation until November 20, 2013. There is no reporting relationship between the Chief of Staff and the Cabinet members; Cabinet members will report directly to the President within their areas of responsibility. The President and the Chief of Staff believe that the matter should have been brought to the attention of the Cabinet or reported in greater detail to the President. Their concern is that because of the lack of earlier notice the University was not in a position to respond timely to the incident or to take the steps senior leadership would have deemed appropriate to the circumstances and would have taken if notified.
Our factual findings indicate that this failure did not result in a violation of University policy regarding administrative issues for which the University staff was responsible (i.e., the failure to take action required under applicable policy), but the failure of internal communication precluded senior level oversight of the matter according to established practice. Consequently, the University missed the opportunity to address institutional concerns related to insuring security of the students (in addition to the Victim, the Suspects, and the other residents on that floor – physically and environmentally (i.e., with respect to anticipated publicity or other interference with the academic setting), general campus security, and media relations in a more timely fashion.
I highly recommend Campus Safety readers review the entire report, which can be found here. What transpired at San Jose State is an excellent example of how challenging these situations can be, particularly when the victims don’t want to make a report.
It also highlights the importance of top administration involvement in security and public safety issues.
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