Members of Holy Cross Community Gather in Response to Zoombombing Incident

Hui Li ’21

Co-Chief Graphic Designer

On Friday, September 18, approximately 40 members of the College of the Holy Cross community spent an hour with each other through a virtual gathering. The registration link for the event was included in an email titled “Incident of Bias,” which was sent the evening before and contained the news of an Zoombombing that happened during an Africana Studies lecture earlier that day. According to the email, the community gathering was intended to be a “virtual space for those who wish to gather in support of one another and [Holy Cross’] shared community values.”

The investigation into this incident began on Thursday, September 17, after the college’s Bias Response Team was activated and the departments of Public Safety and Information Technology Services were called upon to help find the culprit, whose identity is currently unknown. It is also not known whether or not they are a member of the Holy Cross community. Many have denounced the Zoombombing as racist, as the comments made by the perpetrator allegedly scoffed at the importance of learning about Black history and questioned the experiences of Black people in the United States.   

Michele Murray, Vice President of Student Affairs and the college’s Dean of Students, sent the notification of the incident on Thursday evening. She shared with The Spire, “It’s hard to sit with the fact that some people will so willingly and brazenly disrupt [our community experience] with hateful speech.”

Amit Taneja, the Associate Provost of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, co-signed the statement. He wrote to the college newspaper, “These incidents expose the personal, family and ancestral trauma that many members of our community have experienced. In many ways, these incidents not only evoke feelings about this specific incident, but all other times in the past where we have been told or made to feel like we do not belong, or that we do not matter. For those reasons, such incidents can be deeply hurtful and therefore must be condemned each and every time.”

Both Dean Murray and Provost Taneja were at the gathering on Friday. Among the 40 members of the community present were several staff members who served as facilitators of the event. They came from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the Chaplains’ Office, and the Counseling Center at Holy Cross. The rest of the participants were students from various class years and faculty from different departments.

All the attendees joined smaller breakout rooms and spoke in discussions led by each of the organizers. Each person began by stating adjectives that describe their reaction to the news of the incident before sharing their thoughts on the situation. Among the words that The Spire has collected from participants who agreed to share their adjectives for publication were the following: angry, tired, not surprised, worried, upset, brokenhearted, sad, frustrated, disappointed, protective, mobilized, “WHY???,” care, and concern.

Graphic by Hui Li ’21

Maggie Hannick ’23, a student who attended the gathering, had this to share about her reaction to the incident. She communicated to The Spire, “It is extremely disheartening to think someone went to such an extent to be racist, especially in an educational setting, especially in an African studies class, especially when studying slavery. Especially with the increased momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement right now, Holy Cross needs to do more to support students of color, call out racist acts, and not only be diverse but inclusive in its diversity.”

After finishing their small group discussions, all participants rejoined everyone else to share their messages of solidarity with those affected by the incident. In her statement to The Spire, Hannick wrote, “I want to lift up every student who has experienced racism in their life and at Holy Cross. There is no excuse for racism, and we must actively work to end the perpetuation of white supremacy in all forms, especially institutionalized in our school system. Blacks Lives Matter – yet matter is the minimum. Black Lives are worthy. Black Lives are beloved. Black Lives are needed.”

The Spire also asked some of the participants to share brief reflections on the gathering. Derek DeBobes, Director of the Office of Title IX and Equal Opportunity, wrote from his experience, “Unfortunately, reports of bias related incidents are not unique to Holy Cross. However, I was encouraged to see students, staff and faculty come together on a Friday evening to spend time in community. That is what a community does. We learn together, grieve together, affirm one another, but most importantly we show up for each other.”

Hannick shared in her reflection, “I was grateful Holy Cross had an opportunity for the community to come together and talk about the racist act. It was good to hear from students, faculty, and staff and process what is going on, discuss our thoughts and feelings, and brainstorm ways to improve the Holy Cross experience for all people, including racial minorities. I hope there is more we do in response and that more people take part in it. It is important to speak with others and work towards bettering our (virtual) community because racist acts should never happen let alone be tolerated or ignored.”

Provost Taneja shared, “The recent zoom-bombing incidents are meant to send messages of hate and exclusion to members of our community. These deplorable acts are unequivocally condemned by the College. It was important for me that when harm happens within our community that we counteract those negative messages with those of love, affirmation and belonging. There is power in numbers, and when several students, faculty and staff can come together to say to students on the margins that they are valued, that they belong, that they are full members of our community – then we can begin the process of healing.”

Dean Murray reflected on her experience at the gathering, “I was really heartened that so many people came and showed interest and solidarity, and that students, faculty, and staff alike were willing to stand up and say that this is not who we are as a community. My hope is that as human beings we will learn to relate to one another as human beings: each person with dignity.”

Provost Taneja also wrote about what he hoped the community would take away from the event. “My hope from the gathering was to reaffirm over and over again to all those impacted by the zoom-bombings was that they belong! I hope that they left that space knowing that they have allies in our community, and that we will continue to work to make the campus a more welcoming and inclusive space. We will not be complacent when hate happens in our community. We will speak up in the moment, and we will continue our work to make Holy Cross a place where we truly live up to our mission.”

Lastly, Dean Murray had something to say to the students and to the professor in the Africana Studies class that endured the ordeal. “Thank you to the students in the class who were fast acting and thank you to the faculty member who tried to thoughtfully engage this Zoombomber in dialogue. It is very difficult to engage with someone who expresses so much hate.”

Referencing Dr. Martin Luther’s King’s famous quote, she said, “These days, we need to labor to be a community of light and love.”

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