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Penn State Black Caucus Receives Slurs, Hate Speech Through Involvement Fair ‘Zoom-Bombing’

Penn State’s Black Caucus issued a statement Friday acknowledging it was on the receiving end of a “Zoom-bombing” incident that resulted in hate speech and slurs at Penn State’s virtual spring Involvement Fair.

According to the organization’s press release, 51 unwanted users “ambushed” the group’s Involvement Fair Zoom room on Wednesday, January 27, and directed “racist and homophobic slurs” at three Black Caucus executives. The individuals in question allegedly sent anti-Semitic and white supremacist language and symbols in that chat, too.

“While we are not surprised by this disgusting behavior, we are deeply saddened and disappointed that this occurred,” the group wrote in a statement. “Communities that have been historically pushed to the margins have fought to be in inclusive environments that are safe and welcoming. This incident begs the question: If we are not safe in our classrooms, on our campus, in our homes, in an online meeting, then where are we supposed to go?”

Following the incident, the organization reported it to Penn State, which quickly alerted student organizations and leaders about the hate speech. Dawn Savage, the program coordinator at Penn State’s Engagement Programs Office, said the university “strongly condemns” the actions.

“We are saddened that these actions have been taken against one of our organizations and will continue to work with our student organizations to ensure spaces where all are welcome,” Savage said in an email.

Savage implored student organizations to take steps to make their virtual meetings and events more secure. An easy way to start, she said, is by making sure to click “Require authentication” under “Security” and switching to “psu.edu users only” before creating a meeting.

Organizations are also advised to record meetings and auto-save chat logs “in case something like this were to occur” again.

Moving forward, the Black Caucus encourages Penn State to continue using its resources to hold “attackers” accountable and invest in programming and research that can help the university combat racism and “anti-Blackness” effectively.

“These racist acts are deeply-seeded into American society, and the University must do its part to ensure that its Black students are safe and can have the quality educational experience they deserve.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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