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Intercultural studies career day alumni panel Zoom-bombed

This past Wednesday, the global and intercultural studies department (GIC) held a virtual alumni panel during its career fair that was Zoom-bombed by people displaying racist, anti-Semitic and pornographic images. 

The event was organized to provide career training to GIC students with a focus on showcasing their interdisciplinary skills on the job market.

The incident occurred shortly after the event began. 

Senior American studies major Emily Garforth was shocked when the first pornographic image showed up, but once pictures of Adolf Hitler and an audio loop of a racial slur were shown, it became clear to her what the Zoom-bombers’ motives were. 

“It's messed up that someone feels like it's funny to do something like that,” Garforth said. “But it's so, I guess, par for the course that someone comes on and, of course, what they are drawn to do is something racist or something anti-Semitic. It's just not surprising at this point.”

Last semester, one of Pi Sigma Epsilon’s recruiting events was also hacked with racist and anti-Semitic threats. 

Carlos Rodriguez, a sophomore Western studies major, had heard of similar incidents happening in other Zoom calls but was shocked at how this particular incident affected him.

“When it [started], it was just like, ‘This is a really good event,’” Rodriguez said in reference to the GIC panel. “And it's talking about [social justice]. And so it was really offensive just to have that happen.”

The Center for Career Exploration and Success handled the technical portion of the call and was able to remove all the Zoom-bombers. Since the incident is currently under investigation, the Center could not comment.

Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy, associate professor of American studies, realizes the benefits of using online technology for educational opportunities but said this incident shows the disadvantages as well.

“This is really an unfortunate event which we condemn, which does not represent what Miami stands for,” Godeanu-Kenworthy said. 

After the attackers were removed, the event carried on.

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“I was pleasantly surprised at how fast and just quickly they got back on track,” Rodriguez said. “And that was probably my favorite part. Just the fact that it was like they acted as if it didn't happen.”

The alumni panel included Katie Mey, the assistant director for gender-based violence protection at the Virginia Tech Women’s Center, Taylor Robinson, the internal communications manager for Dropbox, Kateryna Botsu, a strategy assistant for the International Monetary Fund and Kristen O’Connell, the coordinator of Governance and Partnerships for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. 

“I really am grateful to the panelists, the moderator and the participants for the grace and poise they showed dealing with really troubling disruptions,” Godeanu-Kenworthy said.

Director of University News and Communications Jessica Rivinius said the Center for Career Exploration and Success reported the Zoom-bombing to the Information Security office and the Office of Community Standards.

“The university condemns this behavior, and we also stress to follow the security protocols that are listed and recommended,” Rivinius said. 

Rivinius also said that – after the completion of an internal investigation – if the university finds that the Zoom-bombing warrants involving external law enforcement, it will do so. 

At this time, the university does not know who is responsible for the attack.

Kimberly Hamlin, an associate professor of history and the panel’s moderator, believes it is important to find out where these Zoom-bombers originated from. 

“If it's some off-campus, random person with no connection to Miami, then it's just a matter of IT security tightening up Zoom protocols,” Hamlin said. “But if it's someone on campus, then I think there needs to be follow up and, I would say, adjudication.”

Additional reporting was contributed by Asst. Campus & Community Editor Cosette Gunter.