Divestment Committee Zoom Bombing

Current Status:

Although we believe this situation has been addressed in a way that should prevent future reoccurrence, those who believe they have been the target of bias, intolerance or discrimination may report an incident to the public incident report form (bias and intolerance) or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (sexual misconduct and discrimination).

Please direct any questions or concerns in regard to this bias incident to the Special Assistant to the Chief Safety Officer at RBIresponse@utah.edu.

What happened

On October 26, 2020, during an Academic Senate Ad Hoc Committee for Strategic Divestment and Reinvestment Investigation Town Hall meeting conducted over Zoom, an unknown group of individuals “zoom bombed” the meeting, using offensive sexual and racist videos, statements, and images in their Zoom video and audio feeds, and using racist hate speech in the text chat function, and in annotating the shared screen. The racist hate speech was directed at our Black community. The meeting was not password protected at the time, but instead was utilizing the “waiting room” function. Some of the “zoom bombers” had changed their zoom usernames to appear to be legitimate participants to gain access to the meeting. The meeting organizers ended the meeting about 30-40 seconds after the “bombing” began.

Similar incidents have occurred at Colleges and Universities throughout the country since late March 2020, when many institutions began using Zoom for online meetings and classes as part of their COVID-19 response plans.

What is being done

The incident was reported to the University’s Racist and Bias Incident Response Team, Information Security Office, University Police, and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) were notified.

The Information Privacy Office conducted a review to determine if any University Community member’s UNID or credentials were compromised and found nothing to indicate that they were. Perpetrators of incidents like this are difficult to identify, especially in unsecure Zoom meetings, however, if any university community members are identified, the Office of the Dean of Students, Human Resources, or other appropriate administrator will contact them to discuss policies and relevant sanctions, and provide education about the impact of these messages.

What to do

The University of Utah Information Privacy Office and IT department have previously released information regarding additional steps that can be taken to secure virtual meetings conducted via Zoom, and it may be helpful to review them prior to scheduling your next Zoom event. Those previous communications can be found here: Security Best Practices When Using Zoom and Avoid Being Bombed, Keep Your Zoom Meetings Safe. Zoom has also published a blog post How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event. Additionally, a story on helpful tips to secure Zoom meetings will be distributed in the upcoming November 2, 2020 edition of @TheU.

The U is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion

The University of Utah strongly condemns bias, discrimination, racism, bigotry and hate in the strongest possible terms and is no place for violence. We support fostering an inclusive campus and are committed to diversity. U administrators want to assure students, faculty and staff that they are dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming and equitable campus where we work together to engage, support and advance a living, learning and working environment that fosters values of respect, diversity, inclusivity and academic excellence.

President Ruth V. Watkins said in a message condemning racism that “The rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values. These cowardly, faceless and non-university sanctioned tactics are designed to disrupt and frighten individuals and communities, and to garner attention for an insidious ideology that has no place on our campus or in our community.”

Students, faculty, staff and visitors who believe they have been the target of bias, intolerance or discrimination may report an incident to the Office for Inclusive Excellence (bias and intolerance) or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (sexual misconduct and discrimination).

Questions & Concerns

For any questions or concerns in regard to this bias incident, please contact Brian Jay Nicholls, Special Assistant to the Chief Safety Officer, at RBIresponse@utah.edu.

For additional reporting information, please feel free to visit here.

Response process
Support Resources

If you are currently in a situation where immediate medical, police or other emergency services are needed, call 911 or University Emergency Communications at 801-585-2677 (801-585-COPS). To file a complaint regarding discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA) at 801-581-8365.

Support & resources
Report a Bias Incident

Any act of intolerance, motivated wholly or in part by bias or prejudice against an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, age, religion, size, disability, national origin, language, gender, veteran status, identity expression, sexual orientation or age—regardless of severity—can be reported using this form.

Submit a report