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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Zoom bombing halts Shred the Contract meeting

Tougher security will help stop future zoom bombings

Generic zoom photo

By Nathan Schumock

A Shred the Contract meeting at Western Washington University was zoom-bombed by three people yelling racist and homophobic slurs.

Shred the Contract is a group that advocates for the dismantling of Western’s dining program which is run by Aramark. 

The people who partook in the Nov 11. Zoom bombing had generic profile pictures and used aliases so they could not be identified, said Laura Wagner, a senator for Huxley College of the Environment. .

The meeting was immediately concluded and continued in a different, more secure Zoom channel, Wagner said.

The original Zoom link was publicly accessible, so anyone could join as long as they had the link.

“You want a lot of people to come to your meetings to learn about the cause, so you post it on your public Instagram account,” Wagner said. “But at the same time, anyone can access that link.”

The Zoom links will no longer be posted on public platforms. In order to attend a meeting, people must reach out to Shred the Contract via their Instagram direct messages. Additionally, the meetings won’t be held from a personalized Zoom ID so that no one has continuous access, Wagner said.

Colin Walsh, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, wrote an article on the importance of reacting in the appropriate way to a Zoom-bombing incident.

“The first thing to do is to acknowledge what happened and to normalize the fact that it was troubling, to say, ‘It is OK that we’re troubled by this,’” Walsh said. “It is OK to take that beginning period and feel really upset. Normalize that.”

Walsh said that the affected students need to be made aware of resources that are available to them.

“Use university counseling services for those who feel deeply troubled,” Walsh said. “We need to advertise counseling services, advertise movement classes and meditation resources for people who felt they needed that.”

While it is important to try to catch the people who have conducted these zoom-bombings, it is rare to get closure in a situation like this, Walsh said. The more important aspect is focusing on the resilience of the university and its students against the interruptions.

Instead of involving law enforcement to find the perpetrators, Shred the Contract decided to use alternate forms of reporting the incident.

“Shred the Contract decided that we just want help from Title IX and incident investigators, as well as tech to help us,” Wagner said.

Wagner said Title IX wants to push people towards the appropriate resources to help them deal with it mentally. Title IX will also investigate the interruption and try to gather information to find the Zoom bombers.

Shred the Contract meetings could be held on a different platform in the future, such as Microsoft Teams, which is a more secure form of video chatting, because you have to receive an email from a Western associate in order to be let in. Additionally, if you are a guest at a Microsoft Teams meeting your microphone is disabled and you can only use the chat function. 

Sargun Handa, Associated Students Senate Pro Tempore, said, “I like the idea of moving to Teams because only Western students can join.”

 Handa said Shred the Contract needs the support of the AS right now.

“Shred the Contract is an AS club and is going through a lot right now, so it’s important for us to support them,” Handa said.        

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