African-American students at the University of South Carolina were the victims of White supremacist hackers who turned their “virtual cookout” into an opportunity to spew hateful rhetoric.
According to CBS affiliate WVLT8, the Association of African American Students (AAAS) was hosting a virtual version of its annual spring cookout on Friday when neo-Nazis entered the Zoom meeting and began using racial slurs. At least one racist hacker was donning blackface, and another prominently showcased a Nazi flag behind him.
In a tweet describing the incident, AAAS said, “During the cookout, unknown persons entered and proceeded to post a plethora of images, videos, and messages containing racist slurs and derogatory terms. We are completely repulsed by the actions of these individuals and offer our support of those who were subject to or in any way impacted by it.”
On Friday evening Bob Caslen, president of UofSC, tweeted that what transpired on Friday at the AAAS event was “absolutely unacceptable and disgusting.” “I can’t apologize enough to the @UofSCstudents who witnessed such ignorance while gathering to fellowship with one another during this unprecedented time. University officials are aware & are investigating.”
Caslen followed the tweet with an official statement on Saturday. In it, he pledged that the school would be vigilant in responding to the incident and that the IT department had contacted Zoom to launch an official investigation. “Our Office of Equal Opportunity Programs has been notified and is prepared to investigate in the event that it is determined that University students committed these terrible acts,” Caslen added, while also offering assistance to any AAAS member who may need it.
“At the University of South Carolina, we celebrate diversity and encourage respect for all members of the community through our Carolinian Creed. This incident runs contrary to the values we hold as Gamecocks, but also to the values we hold as a nation. We all stand in solidarity with AAAS. We stand together as Gamecocks in the face of this reprehensible event. We pledge once again our continuing commitment to respect the dignity of all human beings and the ideals of the Carolinian Creed,” Caslen concluded.
Zoom responded to the UofSC student who posted the original video of the incident, saying, “We are very upset to hear about this.” The company added that it would escalate the matter to its trust and safety team. On Sunday the AAAS group posted an invite on its Instagram for students to “discuss the unfortunate incident” together.