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ASSU candidates’ rally ‘Zoom-bombed’ with anti-Black, anti-Semitic sentiments

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Several unknown participants hurled racial hate speech and broadcast violent images during a Saturday Zoom town hall hosted by The People’s Caucus, a slate of 10 candidates of color in the ongoing Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Undergraduate Senate election. 

The intruders, who are still unknown, entered the Zoom and proceeded to share anti-Black messages through audio. After the candidates attempted to continue the town hall using the same Zoom meeting link, the intruders shared images of weapons and a swastika, according to members of the caucus.

“It was violent and piercing, and it was a targeted display of hate in a room full of minority students,” said rally attendee Mohammad Gumma ’22. 

Advocating for “social change and the safety of marginalized groups on campus” is a central component of The People’s Caucus’ platform

The town hall included all 10 members of the caucus and the two sole candidates for ASSU Executive Office, Munira Alimire ’22 and Vianna Vo ’21. 

The caucus addressed the incident in an Instagram post and Daily op-ed on Sunday. 

“This was a targeted form of racism, anti-Blackness, and anti-Semitism towards the movement that we are trying to progress,” the caucus wrote. “Instances like this have occurred often these past few weeks and in no way should be normalized.” 

Rally attendee Sierra Porter ’22 said she was disgusted by the hacking of the event, and she hopes the perpetrators face consequences. 

“This past quarter has been difficult for everyone with the global pandemic and uncertainty of the school year looming over us,” Porter said. “That, however, gives no one the right to incite racial violence and hatred upon others because what happened on Saturday was, indeed, a hate crime. It is my hope that those who have committed this transgression will be brought to justice.”

“Zoom-bombings,”or disruptions to Zoom meetings by outside parties often entailing inappropriate media or offensive language, have become increasingly common since universities have switched to online learning. Zoom has released new privacy settings to fight these attacks, but it has failed to stop them completely. 

“University Information Technology (UIT) is investigating, seeking to identify the people responsible for these horrible acts,” Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole wrote in a statement to the Stanford community on Monday night. Any information uncovered in UIT’s investigation will be forwarded to the Department of Public Safety.

Brubaker-Cole also wrote that the University will launch a review of their Acts of Intolerance process, led by Associate Vice Provost for Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning Emelyn dela Peña.

Alexis Mack ’22, a member of the People’s Caucus, called upon the University to ensure students have a safe and equitable education while online learning continues. 

“I’m very disheartened by this entire incident,” Mack said. “It’s been a couple days of me trying to reflect on my quarter at large, but also these piling up incidents recently. I think Stanford needs to take institutional action to change that, especially if they want students to have the quality of education, protection, and support that they promised to them.”

Cricket Bidleman ’21, current ASSU director of communications, also called on the University to help prevent future online attacks. 

“I wish that I could say that ASSU could prevent this kind of stuff from happening, but because of the nature of online platforms it would be incredibly difficult for us to do that alone,” Bidleman said. “Which is why I think it is absolutely fair for us to call on the University to help us with this.”

In a response published in The Daily on Monday, the People’s Caucus wrote that such incidents are recurring events in the lives of minority students. 

“Anti-Blackness is a structure that shapes the experiences of Black people at Stanford University and around the world — and anti-Blackness is the driving force in microaggressions, stereotypes, bigotry, ignorant comments and other things Black students experience,” the response reads. “Experiences like this should not — in any shape or form — become the new normal at a virtual or on-campus Stanford.” 

The intrusion follows an incident in an introductory Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity class in which an assistant professor read a racial slur aloud during a lecture three weeks ago. Current ASSU senators drafted a resolution condemning the incident. Several sponsors of the measures are campaigning for re-election with the People’s Caucus. 

“What happened at the rally was not an isolated incident, and it is tiring how Black students — and other people of color — are continually deprived of their time, energy and labor because of acts of hate and intolerance,” Gumma said.

“We believe that we can conquer as a community, this hatred,” Mack said. “I think it is really important for us to acknowledge that we don’t want this to spread. We don’t want this to be normalized at all.”

May 18, 11:03 p.m. PT: This article has been updated to include Brubaker-Cole’s statement to the Stanford community.

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Mohammad Gumma’s name. Previous versions of this article also incorrectly stated that only one participant disrupted the rally, and that a Stanford email was required for entry into the online rally. The Daily regrets these errors.

Contact Lauryn Johnson at [email protected]

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