Student organizations experience “Zoom bombings” during recent meetings

The people responsible for two incidents have not been identified, and the affected organizations are moving forward with closer attendee monitoring.

Zoom+bombing+screenshot

McGill experienced a “Zoom bombing” during its first CoffeeHouse on Sept. 25. Screenshot taken of the Zoom meeting. (McGill CoffeeHouse/Kelly Morgan)

Jonathan Liu

The McGill CoffeeHouse and Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR) General Body Meeting (GBM) faced incidents of “Zoom bombings” in their meetings over the past two weeks.

According to representatives from both organizations, the people involved in the acts could not be identified.

McGill is one of three Living Learning Communities on campus. McGill’s mission statement says that the community stands for inclusivity, creative expression and free thought. The McGill CoffeeHouse is a signature event hosted by the community, which features performances from its members.

According to Program Coordinator Kelly Morgan, during the organization’s first CoffeeHouse on Sept. 25, an unidentified group entered the Zoom meeting with only their first names displayed on the screen.

“We had our first performer going on when [the group] began making a bunch of noise, saying some unpleasant stuff, and one account was [typing] those things in the chat,” Morgan said.

After trying to communicate with the group in the middle of the performance, the organization realized that the intruders were bots, not actual users.

McGill then canceled the Zoom meeting and sent out a new link with a waiting room, so that the identities of every person who joined the call could be confirmed. The first Zoom link sent through GroupMe and Discord, Morgan said, did not have a waiting room.

While the organization said that it has limited investigative capabilities regarding the incident, it will move forward with waiting rooms and close monitoring during future meetings.

“We have plans for this to not happen again, so we hope nobody feels deterred from returning to CoffeeHouse,” Morgan said.

SPEAR is a student-run organization that, according to its website, advocates for sustainable environmental practices within the Nashville community. They hold GBMs every Monday night at 7 p.m. CDT, and until Sept. 21, these GBMs did not have waiting rooms.

During the conclusion of a community discussion on Sept. 21, President Sydney Juda said that an unidentified attendee entered the Zoom meeting with a racial slur as their name.

Juda added after she removed that person, five more people joined the meeting and began yelling profane phrases.

“One kid had his camera on, and he was clearly a high school student. I was able to lock the meeting down and remove all of them within a minute,” Juda said.

Moving forward, Juda said that the organization will no longer disclose access to its Zoom meetings on public platforms like Instagram. Meeting information will now only be available through university-exclusive platforms, like email, GroupMe and Anchor Link. In addition, SPEAR has begun implementing to ensure that no one can enter its discussions unexpectedly, as suggested by Vanderbilt IT (VUIT).

“[VUIT] said that there’s nothing you’re really supposed to do unless something illegal happens,” Juda said.