RBIRT statement on Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence Zoom bombing incident

What happened

On November 30, 2020, during a faculty and instructor training conducted by the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) held over Zoom, an unknown group of individuals “zoom bombed” the meeting, using language in their audio feeds that was racist and also offensive to the LGBTQ+ community, sexual imagery in their video feed, and using the screen notation function to place racist hate speech, and language offensive to and targeting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the screen. The meeting organizers were able to regain control and removed the disruptive participants. Meeting organizers put in place the appropriate protocols to log into the meeting, but despite those efforts Zoom Bombers were successful in gaining access. Please contact Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) if you have any questions regarding how to keep your Zoom meetings secure.

Similar incidents have occurred at Colleges and Universities throughout the country, as well as the U, since late March 2020, when many institutions began using Zoom for online meetings and classes as part of their COVID-19 response plans.

What is being done

The incident was reported to the University’s Racist and Bias Incident Response Team, and to the Information Security Office. University Police and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) were notified.

Perpetrators of incidents like this are difficult to identify, however, if any university community members are identified, the Office of the Dean of Students, Human Resources, or other appropriate administrator will contact them to discuss policies and relevant sanctions, and provide education about the impact of these messages.

What to do

The University of Utah Information Privacy Office and IT department have previously released information regarding additional steps that can be taken to secure virtual meetings conducted via Zoom, and it may be helpful to review them prior to scheduling your next Zoom event. Those previous communications can be found here: Security Best Practices When Using Zoom and Avoid Being Bombed, Keep Your Zoom Meetings Safe. Zoom has also published a blog post How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event. Additionally, a story on helpful tips to secure Zoom meetings was distributed in the November 2, 2020 edition of @TheU.

The U is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion

The University of Utah strongly condemns bias, discrimination, racism, bigotry and hate in the strongest possible terms and is no place for violence. We support fostering an inclusive campus and are committed to diversity. U administrators want to assure students, faculty and staff that they are dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming and equitable campus where we work together to engage, support and advance a living, learning and working environment that fosters values of respect, diversity, inclusivity and academic excellence.

President Ruth V. Watkins said in a message condemning racism that “The rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values. These cowardly, faceless and non-university sanctioned tactics are designed to disrupt and frighten individuals and communities, and to garner attention for an insidious ideology that has no place on our campus or in our community.”

Students, faculty, staff and visitors who believe they have been the target of bias, intolerance or discrimination may report an incident through the public reporting form (bias and intolerance) for supportive measures, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (sexual misconduct and discrimination). 

Support and resources

Counseling and support services are available from several entities on campus:

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Brian Jay Nicholls, Special Assistant to the Chief Safety Officer at rbiresponse@utah.edu.