Theft spoils campus tradition

Linh Nguyen

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Photo by Mark Sheppard                                                                                    A member of the public voices her opinion at the SJECCD Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 27.












By Patrick Loera and Linh Nguyen/TIMES STAFF

A theft in the men’s locker room at San Jose City College on Nov. 22 that involved the Lincoln High School football team as victims has had serious implications on the men’s basketball team and administration.

Members of the SJCC men’s basketball team are being blamed for taking valuable items that belonged to the Lincoln football team while their belongings were placed in a wide open men’s locker room.

“Between the start of the game and halftime, we noticed that somebody had gone through our stuff in the locker room,” Lincoln High football head coach Kevin Collins said.

Speed City had just finished basketball practice in the main gym to prepare for the Chevron Invitational Basketball Tournament at Diablo Valley College, and passed through as they departed from the facility.

“I wanted to get home and be with my family to have Thanksgiving … and then I get this call that there had been some things missing (from the locker room),” said head basketball coach Percy Carr during the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District Board of Trustees on Nov. 17. “If something would happen like that with the basketball team, you only have one thing to do … I gave them an ultimatum.”

Carr’s proposition resulted in the majority of the items being returned and the remaining items were to be recovered or reimbursed.

“They found out where most of our stuff was and returned most of it,” Collins said. “There was a few items that were not returned, but the police are dealing with that.”

The issue was thought by Carr to have been resolved and disciplinary action on those whom were involved was to be taken eventually.

The Forfeit

“The next thing I know, the school that we’re supposed to have been playing in the tournament called me and said that we were not playing,” Carr said. “They had got a call from an administrator that we were not going to participate.”

Although he stands as head coach of the basketball team and athletic director, Carr said he was not informed of the decision prior to forfeiting the first game of the tournament against Umpqua community college.

“Recognizing the need to conduct a thorough investigation, and to minimize any risk to the college, I decided to forfeit our team’s Friday game,” wrote SJCC President Barbara Kavalier in an email addressed to community members. “This decision was reached after careful consideration of all information received and in consultation with the chancellor.”

Following the president’s decision, a suspect was identified, and the team was allowed to play in the second game of the tournament, which they lost by 17 points to Contra Costa College.

“I ask that you withhold judgment before the investigation is completed and all facts are presented,” Kavalier wrote. “This as an isolated incident that should not tarnish in anyone’s eyes the reputation of our fine athletes, sports program and dedicated coaches.”

The Board Meeting

Twenty-two people, including Carr, gave public comments regarding the forfeit at the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 17.

“I think San Jose City College needs to take a refresher course on (social justice) because this past week I don’t feel like I’ve had any justice at all,” Carr said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I feel very strongly that my basketball team and I have gotten no respect at all.”

Members of the community mentioned that the decision has racist implications, and held signs that asked for Vice President of Administrative Services Greg Nelson to be put on a leave of absence. Nelson is also the interim Dean of Kinesiology, Wellness and Athletics at SJCC.

“This matter is an ongoing investigation by the district, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment or say anything regarding this incident,” Nelson wrote in an email.

Carr stated his understanding for the rules and the investigation, but felt that it could have waited until after the tournament.

“I am not saying anybody is racist, make sure you understand me clearly,” Carr said.

During his comment, Carr also mentioned that if his team were all white rather than mostly black, under these circumstances, then there would not be a continued investigation of these players.

Carr closed his comment by expressing his disappointment in the SJCC administration.

“I’m sad that Vice President Nelson’s name has been thrown in without anyone having all the information,” said administrative services supervisor at Evergreen College Lauren McKee, who is also black. “I’m asking everybody to breathe a little bit, give us as administrators, as the chancellor, as people of color time too, time to resolve this, time to do what’s best for these kids from both sides.”

Because public comments are not on the agenda, the board of trustees could not give back any responses on the comments.

“We have an extraordinary athletic program at San Jose City College, which has grown even stronger over the past year under the leadership of Vice President Nelson,” Kavalier wrote.

“I have been inspired by the collaborative relationship that has existed between Mr. Nelson and Coach Carr and feel certain that the positive spirit of that relationship will be restored with time,” Kavalier wrote.

The next board meeting will be on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the SJECCD office, but it is unclear whether or not this will be addressed by the board.

The Investigation

Since the incident took place, a few players were questioned by campus police, but it has not been confirmed what was discussed.

“It’s an ongoing investigation and I can’t comment on it other than it is ongoing,” SJCC campus police lieutenant Gilberto Torrez said.

At the same time, two players have left the team and one has been suspended; although, it is unconfirmed whether they are related to the Thanksgiving incident and the names of those players have been withheld because of the investigation.

“It is my hope that our actions to date protect the integrity of our college, sports program and student athletes within and outside our college community,” Kavalier wrote.

As the investigation continues, players, coaches, administration, and campus police are unable to comment on the subject until the investigation is complete.