K-State’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Bryan Samuel and K-State President Richard Myers thanked participants of Tuesday’s KSUnite virtual sessions which focused on diversity and inclusion.
Perspectives were offered from a diverse group of scholars who shared experiences in the fourth annual event. President Myers told the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday it was unfortunate that despite all the good, the event was not without some disruption.
“Unfortunately we got Zoom-bombed by the ‘usual suspects.’ We were able in the chat to shut those down very quickly, but not before a couple comments were made that were just disgusting,” he said.
The culprit was Jaden McNeil, a conservative advocate and founder of America First Students, who made headlines earlier this year for racist comments made on Twitter about George Floyd that were condemned by the university and student athletes.
McNeil, in a now deleted tweet, shared the KSUnite event to his followers Tuesday who interrupted the event several times, and posted racist and homophobic rhetoric. The incident happened during a chat on LGBT voices in the media.
“In the virtual world if you want participation, in this case we wanted wide participation and we made that trade off. We were quickly able to go to a Q&A where only the presenter could see the questions. It’s unfortunate we got to that point,” Myers said.
The executive board of the KSU Young Democrats has called on the university to expel McNeil. The university says it is reviewing the incident. It is not clear at this point whether McNeil will face any punishment from the university or legal charges from the incident. Zoom-bombing or video hacking, has become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading some legal experts to say Zoom-bombing offenses could be prosecuted as a federal crime.
Read the official statement from President Myers and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Samuel below.
Dear students, faculty and staff,
In a year where not much has been ordinary, those who participated in this week’s KSUnite virtual sessions were able to hear extraordinary messages about diversity and inclusion. Perspectives were offered from a scholarly, practitioner and lived experience lens. Please accept the university’s heartfelt thanks for sharing personal stories and working to improve our university climate.
Due to COVID-19 the entire event was held virtually, which presented some challenges from past events. Participants faced adversity in the form of multiple significant disruptions in many of the sessions. Our moderators, hosts and technology teams deserve praise for their actions to regain control of the sessions and continue to deliver messages of progress and hope.
Our goal was to provide open, honest dialogue about issues surrounding diversity and inclusion. We heard many powerful examples that give us opportunities for personal and institutional growth. Let’s continue to build on what was shared and create more bridges of understanding and respect.
State universities have a role in creating the conditions necessary for free exchange, participation in a democracy, and graduates will leave our university with a civic-minded perspective. We commit to providing spaces (virtual and in-person) for faculty and staff to advance more equitable and inclusive teaching, research, and service. Our historically marginalized groups must be allowed to participate in all university activities free from dignity harm or the threat of violence.
Again, we thank those who persevered and represented Kansas State University with respect and dignity. The university is reviewing the source and timeline of the disruptions and will address these in subsequent communications.
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Richard B. Myers