November 11, 2020
Dear Gonzaga Students and Families, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Concerned Community Members:
This past Sunday afternoon, a group of GU students who were holding a meeting of their organization, the Gonzaga Black Student Union (BSU), were subjected to an internet-based attack, on Zoom. This crime, sometimes referred to as “Zoom-bombing,” was a shocking, offensive and hate-motivated act, intended to inflict emotional pain and trauma. As we communicated on Sunday evening, this type of behavior is contrary to every value and expectation we hold as a Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic university.
In response to this attack, we have seen many expressions of solidarity and support for our Black students. Many of you have reached out to us directly, and I want you to know that we hear and understand your well-founded concern, outrage, and demands for action. This administration clearly understands its first responsibility is to the students who have been directly impacted by this event. We immediately moved into action and various colleagues have been in communication with members of the BSU since Sunday. The purpose of this message is to provide you with an update on the actions we have thus far taken, and responses to many of the questions we have received.
What is being done to address this situation?
Our Information Technology Services Department worked quickly to capture data and conduct an initial forensic analysis of the attack, and our Campus Security and Public Safety department reached out to law enforcement for assistance. Since then, two detectives with the Spokane Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Unit have been assigned to this case, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is facilitating a preliminary review and investigation as well. Initial analysis shows that the IP addresses of the attackers are both domestic and international. We are aware that other universities and organizations around the nation have been targeted with similar attacks in recent months, and we are learning from their experiences. We are committed to doing everything possible to identify those responsible and hold them accountable.
How are you supporting and protecting Black students, specifically those present at the incident, during this time?
We are deeply disheartened that we must identify ways to maintain safety and security in virtual meeting experiences, but that is a clear reality. Students, clubs and organizations, and employees have been alerted to the safety features available through Zoom, as well as guidance on how to make meetings private. We are also implementing internal information technologies within our own systems to help protect our community from interference and intrusion of any kind. Our BSU students have requested the services of a therapist from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community, and in addition to securing those services, we are very close to hiring an individual to join our staff. We fully support this addition to our team.
We are cognizant of the fact that this incident has engendered fear and distrust among our BSU students. Yesterday, November 10, 2020, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE) supported a Student Healing Circle – a safe space for students to process how they are feeling, while at the same time centering the voices of BIPOC students impacted by the attacks. Participants discussed ways of providing support and healing as we move forward. The DICE office works to provide a safe space, mentoring, and group dialogue focused on identity and inclusion on an ongoing basis.
Numerous divisions and offices here at Gonzaga have sent messages of support to the BSU, pledging specific actions they are taking to create a safer, more inclusive community. There are many departments within the University that have committed their professional development programs this year to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are grateful to the many individuals who have reached out to our University with supportive gestures of concern and care for the students who experienced this horrible incident. Our extended community, too, has offered support and assistance, including Kiantha Duncan from Spokane’s NAACP Chapter, Terri Standish-Kuon, president of the Independent Colleges of Washington, John Culton from the Office of Senator Patty Murray, Shari Clarke, CDO at Eastern Washington University, and Logan neighbors.
What are the policies for offensive behavior? How are they enforced?
The Gonzaga Student Code of Conduct and Policy and Procedures Manual include harassment and discrimination policies that prohibit the use of physical or verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment or any form of coercion, and other actions and behaviors inconsistent with University expectations. Alleged participation in such conduct may result in the initiation of student conduct procedures for students, and disciplinary action for employees. Additionally, at Gonzaga, incidents such as the one on Sunday can be reported to the BIAS team (Bias Incident Assessment Support), which collects reports on bias incidents and hate crimes. Again, disciplinary actions through student conduct procedures or human resource procedures can be pursued as a result of such reports.
What are the disciplinary courses of action for instances such as this?
Gonzaga’s Student Code of Conduct outlines adjudication processes for violations involving student misconduct. Should a student or students be found responsible for the actions that occurred in this incident, the outcomes would be severe, and could include expulsion from the University. Should the incident involve an employee, policies governing employee misconduct and overseen by Human Resources would apply.
Our student members of the BSU have identified a set of steps they would like the administration to take, a number of which are addressed in this message. In response to a specific request, we will shortly be creating and separately communicating the opportunity for a virtual “Town Hall” to which members of the Gonzaga Community will be invited, and at which these matters and other, related issues can be discussed.
In keeping with our mission-based values, we are a place committed to upholding the dignity of all individuals. We are a university in which faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and others continue to advocate for changes that will help students feel safe, secure and valued. We appreciate the concern so many have expressed, and your counsel and recommendations are valued. Our commitment to eliminating racism from our campus and community demands the participation of everyone. We will continue to update our community as this investigation continues, and more details become available.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.
Deena J. González, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President
Kent Porterfield, Ed.D.
Vice Provost, Student Affairs
Raymond F. Reyes, Ph.D.
Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer