By Stephen Neukam
Racist intruders at a Valentine’s Day Zoom event hosted by two Rider Black sororities spewed hate and drew bigoted imagery that left eventgoers stunned on Feb. 11, triggering an urgent response by the university and a police investigation.
The event, hosted by Zeta Phi Beta and Delta Sigma Theta, was meant to spread self-love when the Zoom meeting was disrupted by an unidentified group that blasted the screens with racist epithets, swastikas, anti-Semitic rhetoric and racial stereotypes at about 9:30 p.m. The deluge of imagery was scrawled by hand on the screen.
Senior biology major Alexandria Poole, president of Delta Sigma Theta, said the disruptive group of about 15 people showed up to the event early and caused havoc for about five minutes. Poole attempted to control the situation, asking for everyone to please stop shouting and drawing. The group refused, and Poole ended the event, which had an attendance of at least ten people.
According to Poole, the unwanted group used fake names and reentered the Zoom after being kicked out. The sororities were able to pull some of the emails that were used by the intruders, some of which had Rider domains, said Poole. The list of email addresses was turned over to the university.
Earlier on the same night, at an event hosted by a Black fraternity at Rutgers in honor of Black History Month, the Zoom meeting was also invaded by racist agitators.
According to a social media post by the fraternity, the group was able to access the share screen feature on Zoom and slammed the meeting with Ku Klux Klan songs, graphic video of Black people being murdered and mutilated and more racist imagery. The post said the incident was under law enforcement investigation.
According to Poole, the event at Rider did not enable screen sharing.
The university has yet to confirm whether the attack at Rider was part of a larger plot against other universities, according to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla.
Stasolla said that the link to the meeting was posted publicly on the internet. The Office of Information Technology is setting up meetings to emphasize to students how to set up secure Zoom meetings.
Poole said she was in “pure shock,” while other members were angry enough to be moved to tears.
Senior musical theater major and Student Government Association Vice President Dylan Erdelyi said that he was not aware of whether the agitators were students or an outside entity yet, but that Rider Public Safety and the Office of Technology Information were working to track down the IP addresses of the offenders.
A statement by President Gregory Dell’Omo on Feb. 12 said that initial findings suggested the group may have been external to Rider. The statement also said the university was taking steps to protect its virtual events from outside interference.
“We do not tolerate such shameful, reprehensible and degrading behavior,” said Dell’Omo. “It has absolutely no place in our community — or any community — and runs completely counter to the values and expectations we hold dear.”
Caption: Senior biology major Alexandria Poole, president of Delta Sigma Theta, said that the racist incident left her in “pure shock.”