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Education

UTSA Black Student Union Meeting ‘Zoom Bombed’ By Racist Taunts

Members of the UTSA Black Student Union pose for a portrait on the university campus.
Courtesy photo
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UTSA Black Student Union

The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Black Student Union was the target of racist harassment during a virtual meeting earlier this week.

BSU President Priscilla Okolie said her organization’s discussion on dating during quarantine was repeatedly interrupted by anonymous users who played songs, shouted the N-word and posted graphic images in the chat.

“It's very disrespectful, because even if we disagreed with them we would never go into their spaces and do things like this. And the fact that they believe that they have the right to do so is just disgusting,” Okolie said. “These are folks who are cowards, because they would never do this in a physical setting.”

Okolie said she and her fellow members refused to cut the meeting short, despite the interruptions. She believes the people most likely to have had access to the meeting information are students or staff at UTSA.

“I feel kind of betrayed by my UTSA community,” Okolie said. “Not at large, but that this is something that I believe could primarily only be accessed by UTSA students.”

In a tweet responding to a statement from the BSU, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy called the interruptions “vile and hateful” and promised that the university was “aggressively working to identify and hold accountable those who have behaved in such an offensive manner.”

UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand said the IT department was attempting to identify the perpetrators by looking at their source locations. If they are identified and found to be students, Izbrand said they would be “subject to discipline” under the university’s student code of conduct, classified as either harassment or misuse of technology.

Okolie said she’s not holding out hope that they’ll be found, but if they are identified as students or staff she hopes they’ll be expelled or fired.

“I have had different departments within UTSA reach out to us offering resources from an emotional and psychological standpoint,” Okolie said. “But as far as disciplinary action, we haven't really heard anything, and I'm not too sure that they can do much of anything, which is unfortunate.”

Okolie said the members of the BSU felt it was important to share what happened to them because Black student groups and other minority college organizations are often the subject of racist harassment.

“This is something that has happened to so many other organizations on this campus. We were one of the few who actually mentioned it publicly,” Okolie said. “There are so many people whose stories go unheard of and are underreported.”

In the meantime, Okolie said the Black Student Union has ramped up security for future Zoom meetings. Students will have to RSVP and log into the meeting using their UTSA email address, which will bar anonymous participants.