Zoom bombers target GVSU group with racist language

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are investigating after hackers posted racist language and images in a Zoom meeting held by a Grand Valley State University student group.

The university says the Black Male Scholars were hosting their kickoff meeting over Zoom Thursday night when a group of so-called ‘Zoom bombers’ used the “shocking and deplorable” language and images, the university said.

Senior Collin Louis was in the meeting and said the intrusion was disturbing.

“Everyone was bewildered,” Louis said. “It was strong racial slurs, such as the N-word. It was very scary to students.”

Officials tell News 8 about 40 to 50 students were at the meeting at the time.

On Friday morning, the university said investigators determined the Zoom bombers were not from the campus community.

“Our entire Black community is our top priority right now,” said Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D., vice president for inclusion and equity at GVSU.

In a Zoom meeting with News 8,  campus authorities said they have video recording of the Black Male Scholars meeting that’s helping investigators track down the intruders.

“Some of those photos match individuals that they discovered via social media that are out of state,” Bernal said.

The GVSU Department of Public Safety is investigating the incident as a criminal case.

Three other GVSU student groups also experienced Zoom bombings Thursday night, officials said.

Below is a statement that was sent to the GVSU community Friday morning:

Dear Campus Community,

I want to share with you that thanks to the great work by the Grand Valley Police Department and our IT department, it has been determined the reprehensible racial incident reported during a Zoom meeting of our Black Male Scholars group last night did not come from people within our university community. That fact in no way diminishes our resolve to fight racism at every turn. The values of Grand Valley State University call us to be a model of an inclusive and affirming community.

The seriousness of this incident, which included racist language and images, prompted our IT department to immediately and successfully be able to turn over suspect leads to GVPD, and the investigators are pursuing this as a criminal case. We are following up with those who attended the meeting to offer any support we can as a community.

During the evening, it was reported that three other GVSU student groups also experienced “Zoom bombings.” These disturbing events are also being investigated. Vice President for IT Milos Topic is already working on additional protocols and training to improve security.

We will not tolerate any behavior of this nature. We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. If people need additional support, please contact inclusion@gvsu.edu.

Philomena V. Mantella, President

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