Update to an Incident of Racism During Black History Month Zoom Event

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 3:00pm

TO: Campus Community

FR: Wm. Gregory Sawyer, Vice President for Student Affairs
Nader Oweis, Chief of Police, Sonoma State Police Department
David Chun, Chief Information Officer
On February 16, 2021, during the Black Student-Athlete Experience lecture, one of several events held during Black History Month, an unknown individual in black face appeared during the Zoom program and spewed a racial epithet. The guest speaker’s presentation was disrupted when the Zoom screen was defaced with the “n-word,” and additional messages were being sent through the chat with racial slurs and anti-Semitic comments. It appears that at least one other individual was on the Zoom call during the presentation, which also may have been involved. An investigation of this incident was immediately initiated by the Sonoma State Police Department, the Information Technology Department, and the Division of Student Affairs.
This incident has been classified as a hate crime. We have also learned that this may not have been an isolated incident. Other law enforcement jurisdictions are also investigating similar incidents which occurred the previous week. We are in contact with these agencies to determine if there may be additional leads that will assist us in our investigation. We have also contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These types of attacks are reprehensible and have no place at Sonoma State University. We take these criminal acts seriously and will continue to investigate and find ways to prevent further attacks. We recognize the impact and harm these hate-filled acts have had on our Black community and the SSU community-at-large. If you have any information about this incident, please report it immediately to the Sonoma State Police Department at 707-664-4444.
SSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services are available for any student seeking support at 707-664-2153. Our Employee Assistance Program, LifeMatters by Empathia, is available for staff and faculty. In these difficult times, we must support one another as fellow members of our Seawolf community. 
Additionally, the Information Technology Department and the Center for Teaching and Educational Technology will provide the campus community a list of best practices for securing Zoom meetings. They have developed two Zoom security training workshops that will be announced shortly.