Members of Gonzaga’s Black Student Union react to racial slurs during Zoom meeting

SPOKANE, Wash. — It was something members of Gonzaga University’s Black Student Union didn’t expect during their weekly Zoom meeting. On Sunday, they were met with people making racist and homophobic slurs. The university is now investigating.

There were about seven B.S.U. members in the meeting. The group holds a meeting every Sunday. This week, they discussed the election.

“All of a sudden we kind of had a sudden influx of people in our meeting and we invited them to share their names,” said Jazmine, Activities Coordinator for B.S.U. “We kind of figured they were there to join our conversation.”

Jazmine said around seven to 10 people joined the open meeting under fake names such as “Anabortion.” None of them had their cameras on. She said one person threatened to kill Joe Biden.

“It just seemed to be like a catalyst and all of them just joined in to, essentially, start yelling racial epithets,” she explained. “It was essentially about a minute long of just this torrent of racial slurs, homophobic comments, pornography on their screens.”

RJ McGee, the group’s secretary, was also watching all of this unfold. He said he’s unfortunately desensitized to slurs like this.

“I’ve been called the n-word before,” McGee said. “I’ve dealt with stuff like that before. I was more concerned about other students.”

McGee said this group is a safe haven for them.

“With the political climate right now, kind of calls for people that are like you and are in similar dangerous positions daily, simply based on the color of their skin because they understand you,” McGee explained, “and it’s easier to share and it’s easier to let things out and that’s important.”

The members said the people in the meeting started chatting graphic content. Jazmine said the host of the meeting figured out how to kick them all out.

“Once they were all gone we just debriefed what had just happened and ended the meeting that way,” she explained.

Jazmine said they told the university’s student body president, who contacted administration.

In a letter addressed to members of the Gonzaga Community, university President Thayne McCulloh and other top school officials said an investigation has begun, and if any members of the Gonzaga community are identified as responsible, the consequences will be “severe.”

4 News Now asked what those consequences would be. While specific details weren’t given, a spokesperson said a hearing officer or the board can consider several options, including expulsion.

This is something both Jazmine and McGee want.

“The university needs to send a message to not only them but anyone that shares their beliefs that hate and racism is not tolerated under any circumstances,” Jazmine said.

She is also asking for a thorough investigation to identify the people who did it.  According to Mary Joan, the university spokesperson, the IP addresses were traced back to domestic and international addresses.

The Spokane Police Department took a police report. Sgt. Terry Preuninger said once they get all the evidence from Gonzaga University, police will look to see if what happened is considered a hate crime by law.

Both B.S.U. members believe this was a hate crime.

“It really is a reminder that racism is alive and is very, very much prevalent in our community and there is a lot of work to be done,” Jazmine said.

This story has made its way to alumni, including Saba Mateos, who said she experienced racism and what she called micro aggression when she went to Gonzaga University.

“If they were students of the campus, then you’ve really missed the core of the mission statement of Gonzaga,” she said. “Gonzaga is an exemplary learning community that educates students for lives of leadership and service for the common good.”

McGee said they’re now going to take extra security measures to keep their meetings safe.

4 News Now reached out to the FBI. It said it’s aware of what happened and will investigate if there’s information a federal crime was committed.

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