San Jose State Students Protest Over Donor’s Anti-Latino Remarks


A member of the San Jose State University’s Towers Foundation, along with a vice president, resigned this week after anti-Latina remarks were made by the board member and went unchallenged by the vice president.

Lydia O’Connor of the The Huffington Post reports that board member Wanda Ginner and vice president for university advancement Rebecca Dukes stepped down, as stated by university president Mo Qayoumi in a letter to the campus community and released to HuffPo. Ginner has been accused of stating that Latina students “do not have the DNA to be successful”. Dukes was at the meeting and allegedly did not oppose Ginner’s statement.

An investigation began when a Latina administrator who was at the meeting made an informal complaint and then a formal complaint in August when she had not received any information concerning resolution of her first inquiry. A protest by a campus group, Students for Racial Equality, last week demanded that the investigation be completed and were encouraged by the resignations. The group also asked that Qayoumi apologize to the complainant, establish mandatory anti-racism training, create steps which can be taken by cabinet members when and if they are faced with a racial incident, and develop an Office of Diversity Engagement and Inclusive Excellence.

KGO-TV of San Jose reports that SJSU student Anisah Reeves quoted Dukes as saying:

 “I contribute to this university because these little Latinas don’t have the DNA to be successful.” 

Reeves continued by stating that after the event, the administration did not respond for seven to eight months. The station also reports that this incident follows a student becoming a target for racism in a residence hall in 2013.

However, Ginner has denied the allegations and insists that she did not say any of the things attributed to her. In fact, she adds that she called for the meeting to address the idea that the university was “unfairly treating Hispanics” as far as admissions and financial aid were concerned.

“I didn’t say that,” she said. “Not only did I not say that, I’m the whistle-blower.”

Ginner added that she had spent a great part of her life supporting organizations “that help Latinas.” Qayoumi  released a statement this week which advised that an external report had just been finished and that after reviewing the findings “appropriate next steps” would be taken.

It was San Jose State Professor Maria Luisa Alaniz who encouraged the administrator who heard the comments to make a complaint, since the statement was about Latino students on their campus. At the end of the spring term, Alaniz and other university employees met with Qayoumi to call for Ginner’s resignation and demanded an apology from her. Alaniz argued that Dukes should have intervened since there is an administrative appeal to everyone on the campus to speak up when they witness prejudice of any kind.

The protesters felt that Qayoumi “closed his door” on them when they went to the president’s office this week to deliver their demands. After they scheduled a meeting with him earlier in the fall, the president’s chief of staff canceled their meeting because they had brought faculty advisers with them.

“We are especially sensitive to issues of tolerance and civility in the wake of the racially motivated actions against a student in our residence halls in 2013,” Qayoumi wrote. “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.”