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This afternoon, hackers infiltrated a Zoom conversation with members of our campus community about the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Racial epithets were vocalized and written in the chat function and swastikas (among other things) were drawn over the PowerPoint presentation before the offenders were kicked out; the session resumed again without further incident.
I can’t express strongly enough how outraged I am by the hate speech and imagery the members of our campus community had to endure -- and I’m a white man. I can’t even comprehend how people of color in that conversation must have felt, especially when they came to the conversation hoping to start the slow process of healing.
We will make every attempt possible to identify the hackers. If you were an employee, you’ll be terminated. If you were a student, you’ll be expelled. If it was an outsider, we will contact law enforcement.
That said, we can’t allow this outrageous and unconscionable act to stop us from moving forward. I want to thank those on our Equity and Inclusion Committee for facilitating these conversations the last two days; more than 150 people took part.
I saw for myself --- and heard reports from the various breakout sessions -- that the expressions of outrage, disgust and heartbreak over the killings were not only powerful and raw, but also instructive, beginning to reveal tangible ways we can move this university forward to play our part in healing the divisive wounds of our country.
It’s my obligation as president to ensure these words and ideas expressed over the last two days aren’t lip service in an attempt to put a tiny bandage on a gaping wound.
We have work to do – lots of it. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but hard work never is.
Peace and all good,
Dr. Dennis R. DePerro
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