San Jose State University no longer employs a lecturer accused of sexual battery by a student, according to SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi.
On the evening of Aug. 30, 2012, the University Police Department (UPD) received a report of sexual battery on campus from the sister of a female student. In its report, UPD says that kinesiology lecturer Jeffry Mathis was accused of groping a female student who went to see him that night about a D+ she received in his class. The incident was first reported by NBC Bay Area.
UPD conducted an interview at the victim’s home hours after the alleged incident, and the school began its own investigation on September 12, the earliest time the victim was available for an interview. Eventually, the matter was passed on to the District Attorney’s office, but as of this time no charges have been filed.
In NBC’s report, Mathis admitted to crossing the line with the student in an email he sent her, but he later told administrators that the encounter was consensual. Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU’s media relations director, told San Jose Inside that Mathis was put on administrative leave once the UPD investigation started, but he was later allowed back on campus after the university deemed he was not a safety risk.
“Regarding the allegations made in the news report, the university conducted a thorough internal investigation in addition to a police investigation immediately after the student filed the complaint,” Qayoumi said. “Based on those investigations, the university took appropriate action.”
Lopes Harris added that there is little information the university can provide, because the issue is a personnel matter.
Sasha Bassett, a San Jose State senior who organized with other students to demand action be taken, said she is satisfied that Mathis no longer works at the school, but the administration’s level of transparency was disturbing.
“I felt like it was insulting that the administration would just completely hush-up the situation,” she said.
Bassett said she received a heads-up from a campus faculty member after an email started circulating, warning of the NBC report before it aired. The email allegedly stated that the report was not something for faculty to discuss with students.
“So, the university knew about it in advanced,” Bassett said.
A group of about 10 students, calling themselves Students for the Accountability of Jeffry Mathis, set up a petition to collect more than 600 signatures, before Bassett closed it on June 3. She said she closed the petition after receiving an email from the university stating that Mathis would no longer be teaching at the school.
“They didn’t explain why, but just that he was let go,” she said. “I was happy that action was taken, but I’m still dissatisfied with the university’s level of transparency.
“It’s obvious that we care and wanted insight into their decision. It speaks to the entire issue that they don’t want people to know what happened.”
According to UPD Sergeant John Laws, there have been 7 sexual assaults reported to UPD since June 2012, only one of which involved a faculty member. According to UPD, there were three sexual assault cases reported in 2009, two in 2010, three in 2011, and seven from June of 2012 until 2013.
Bassett said that she hopes the university learned a lesson from the way this matter was handled, adding: “We are not going to accept that level of secrecy anymore.”