Stetson: FBI investigating ‘Zoombombing’ incident

On June 23, during a scheduled “Let’s Talk Racism” webinar hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an as-yet-unknown participant “Zoombombed” the opening of the webinar with a few seconds of a horrific, racist video. The webinar was closed down immediately and then reopened several minutes later. The facilitators addressed the horrible incident and apologized that this important forum would be targeted with hate. Since then, students and participants expressed concern the university isn’t taking it seriously enough. After a review of the event, aftermath and investigation, it was decided to provide all available information to the Stetson community. The following was issued Wednesday, July 8, from Lua R. Hancock, Vice President, Campus Life and Student Success; Savannah-Jane Griffin, Executive Director, Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence; and Lee Ostrowski, Director, Infrastructure Services & Chief Information Security Officer.

SUBJECT: FBI Investigation into Zoombombing Incident

In his charge to Stetson leadership, President Roellke indicated he wants university actions and words to “emphasize empathy, kindness and clarity.” It is in this spirit that we write about the deeply distressing “Zoombombing” incident during our “Let’s Talk Racism” webinar on June 23.

We have not offered you clarity on the school’s reaction and response to this horrific event. We apologize for our failure to do so.

This is a Hate Crime.
You deserve to know that we consider this incident to be a hate crime directed at our community, and we are treating it as a hate crime. Together we stand against violence, bigotry and racism, and hateful incidents like this have no place at Stetson.

The FBI is investigating.
Immediately following the disturbing incident, it was reported to IT, and the Office of Information Security took quick action by launching its investigation that same day. The university reached out to contacts at the FBI and reported the incident to the FBI Hate Crimes Unit and local law enforcement. Stetson has turned over all the information to the FBI and we were informed today that the FBI Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident. We will continue to pursue this and provide the community with updates as they are received by the university.

We intend to hold accountable those responsible.
We cannot know for sure if the actions were perpetrated by a member of our community, but, if they were, those individuals will face quick and decisive actions, including expulsion or termination. If we are able to identify the perpetrator and they are an outside hacker, we will work with law enforcement to ban that person from campus and to seek the harshest penalties allowed by law. We will not allow this kind of racism or hate to exist here.

We are devoted to helping our community heal.
We know the very real hurt such a hateful incident can cause and the impact it brings to the moderators and attendees of the event. We are reaching out to individuals that we have a record of attending the session to offer them access to counseling services. Student Counseling Services provides free counseling to students including teletherapy appointments and is available by calling 386.822.8900 or emailing [email protected], Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon, or 1-4:30 p.m., to schedule an appointment.

We are working carefully to make sure this hateful intrusion can never happen again.
We have looked into the technical reasons the Zoombombing was able to occur, and recently provided information to the community to protect future webinars and events from similar attacks. Moreover, IT is upgrading our Zoom accounts to allow for greater protection and tracking.

We recognize we have work to do to ensure Stetson University is the safe, inclusive, engaged community of learning we have promised. The “Let’s Talk Racism” webinar was a step in the process of learning how we can best provide and support that environment, and we are committed to making that happen and realize we are just getting started. Dr. Roellke is meeting with the leaders of the Multicultural Student Council (MSC) and the Student Government Association (SGA) to get to know each other and to listen to the students so that we can take action together to eradicate racism at Stetson.

Lua R. Hancock
Vice President, Campus Life and Student Success

Savannah-Jane Griffin
Executive Director, Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence

Lee Ostrowski
Director, Infrastructure Services & Chief Information Security Officer