CASPER, Wyo. — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the investigation of a racist disruption that occurred during Feb. 15 Black History Month discussion conducted by the University of Wyoming’s Black Studies Center.
UW Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago described the events as a “racist attack” in a Monday, Feb. 22 message to the UW community. She also said the attack may be connected to other similar attacks seen throughout the country.
“The words and images were so disturbing, hateful, violent and offensive that they shocked and outraged our community,” Monago said. “Following the university’s administration’s statement condemning the detestable disruption — and calling for a law enforcement investigation to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable — Gov. Mark Gordon also issued a statement of condemnation on behalf of the entire state.”
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Monago said that the UW Police Department and the FBI are continuing to investigate and that the investigation has so far revealed that “four of the five attackers leveraged anonymous VPN services physically located in the U.S. and Germany to hide their true locations.”
“The attacker who did not use a VPN service appears to have connected from a residential broadband connection on the East Coast,” Monago said. “So far, there is no forensic evidence to tie any of the attackers to UW.”
“We’re glad that is the case, but it does not reduce our outrage at this vile occurrence — nor the imperative for us to take action to address problems with racism in our community. And we commit to holding members of our campus accountable if further investigation uncovers a UW connection.”
Other schools such as the University of Southern California, Gonzaga University and Rutgers University have also been “‘Zoom bombed’ with similar hateful, violent words and images in recent weeks and months,” Monago said. “UW’s network security analyst strongly suspects that all of the attacks are related and coordinated.”
She added that UW community members have been affected by the attack.
“While the racist attack appears to have come from outside the university, it understandably caused our students, employees of color and other people in our campus community to feel unsafe,” Monago said. “It brought to the forefront the existence of hate speech and racist behavior here in our own community.”
“And it has shone a brighter light on the need for the university to address ever-increasing efforts to increase our diversity as well the existence of racism — so that we can be a welcoming, safe place for everyone, regardless of ability, age, country of origin, culture, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation or world view.”
Monago added that UW’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee on Black Lives Matter and Systemic Racism held a listening session on Wednesday with about 50 people attending.
“Many of those participants and others expressed that the university’s initial statement about the racist attack was not strong enough; noted the concerns about safety for students of color and minority groups; said there’s not enough awareness about resources and efforts underway to address our problems; and made it clear that the university must do more,” she said. “I took these concerns to heart and committed to do better, and so do others working at UW.”
“On Friday, I had a meeting with UW marketing and communications team members. They are going to assist my office with developing a plan to better communicate diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion information and our commitment to inclusive excellence. This includes the Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittees.”
Monago said that the Community Engagement Subcommittee is partnering with her in response to the incident.
“This same subcommittee is working with me, law enforcement and others to stand up a program to build better community and law enforcement relationships,” she said. “We are also working on actionable steps, communication protocols and response protocols with community partners to take proactive measures when hateful acts happen in our community.”
“One of the functions of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is to support recruitment efforts for employees and students who represent the rich diversity found in the United States and the world and, at the same time, create a campus community where everyone experiences they belong and can find what they need to thrive. People cannot thrive when they do not feel safe. I acknowledge that BIPOC, LGBTQ+, international, intersectional and other vulnerable social identities do not feel safe at all times in Laramie or Wyoming.”
Monago said she discussed the attack with UW President Ed Seidel and other UW leadership during Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
“At that meeting, we committed to doing the work necessary to model what we aspire our students and employees to be when it comes to creating a campus community that is welcoming and committed to inclusive excellence,” she said. “We committed to modeling what it looks like to have a campus community where everyone regardless of their social identities can thrive, and experience safety and belonging.”
“Our first step toward that happened Thursday, this under the specific request of President Seidel. As the Chief Diversity Officer, I am taking the leadership role to coordinate this for the president and vice presidents. In my tenure at UW, this level of commitment has never been demonstrated before. I am truly inspired by and motivated by the leadership and support I receive from President Seidel and the commitment of my colleagues who are among the president’s cabinet members. This is also seen at the trustee level. We have a trustee on the Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and trustee participation during the summer check-ins and listening sessions the ODEI held for people of color and Black Lives Matter protests.”
This article originally appeared on Oil City News. Used with permission.