After the University made the decision to put classes in an online format due to the COVID-19 outbreak, professors began using Zoom, a video-conference platform, where they can continue a lecture-learning environment for classes not easily transferrable to the online format. Incidents involving zoombombing, a situation in which someone hijacks a Zoom seminar with malicious intent, required SFA’s Information Technology Services (ITS) to implement security changes beginning Sunday to online classes by requiring passwords to be able to join a Zoom meeting.
The incidents occurred during a University faculty senate meeting last Friday involving people not affiliated with SFA.
“Quite a few of the little squares that I saw, there were a lot of pornography, pictures and videos,” SGA student body president Scarleth Lopez, a senior psychology major from Dayton said. “Our chat got blown up with the N-word and just hundreds and hundreds of messages saying the N-word.”
The changes were made as an email was sent out Monday stating, “A campus meeting was disrupted on Friday by individuals not affiliated with SFA… We know that such incidents can be traumatic and can add an unnecessary layer of anxiety during an already stressful time.”
Anyone using Zoom for University-related meetings or events must register with their mySFA credentials as well as enter a password distributed by the host.
The zoombombing is not only occurring at SFA; it has become a national issue. The New York Times published an article that said, “On Tuesday, Chipotle was forced to end a public Zoom chat that the brand had co-hosted with the musician Lauv after one participant began broadcasting pornography to hundreds of attendees.”
In an article provided in ITS’ website, ITS gives a definition of zoombombing as well as ways to prevent these incidents from occurring. There are several features Zoom provides to avoid zoombombers such as locking a meeting, removing unwanted participants, disabling the chat and using a waiting room.
Dr. Heather Olson Beal, a professor of secondary education, was an attendee of the faculty senate meeting. She had posted a picture of the Zoom meeting on Facebook and said, “I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the sound of those creepy voices saying that gross word over and over, scaring us.”
Olson Beal said that she uses Zoom a lot with her classroom but has never had an experience with a zoombomber until Friday. Olson Beal said she was scared a zoombomber would continue to interfere with online classrooms knowing that her students have to do live lessons as student teachers for kids not able to attend school.
ITS continues to implement security measure for use which can be enabled on a per meeting basis.
“Plan on joining your zoom meeting a few minutes early to ensure you are able to join the meeting," Anthony Espinoza, chief information officer, said. "When a zoombombing incident occurs, student should be prepared to leave the meeting and look for communication from their professor as to how class will resume. SFA is committed to providing a safe and secure computing environment."
Espinoza also said that there are several resources available to prevent and respond to zoombombings. These are the resources provided:
- The Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form or the Responsible Employee – Title IX Reporting Form.
- The Information Security Office also provides a Security Incident form.
- Information on additional security measures can be found using the CTL’s How to React to Disruptions in Zoom Meetings document.
- Any other help or issues can be directed to ITS’ Help website, or you can contact ITS at 936-468-HELP (4357) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think the University is really acting on the interest of the professors and the students," Lopez said. "If there are any other options out there that they should be considering, they probably are. I will continue to advocate for students. If there are any issues on Zoom or with professors or anything like that, they can reach out to me, and I will do what I can in order to make this transition as easiest as possible for them."