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LGBTQ students at Durham University in England were victims of a hijacked Zoom call in which 15 people shouted homophobic slurs and played “sexually explicit videos” in a coordinated effort to disrupt the meeting.
The event was intended to provide support to new students adjusting to college in the midst of strict COVID-19 regulations, BBC News reports.
LGBTQ groups at the university, including those at St. Mary’s College, condemned the attack in a statement, saying, “To hijack an event like this in such an aggressive and targeted way is nothing less than a hate crime.”
They added: “The fact that this was not simply an individual acting alone, but rather a coordinated attack from a number of people, is a reminder of how routinely unsafe and unwelcome our community is made to feel.”
According to the groups, the attack was part of a “toxic culture” at Durham University, and sent a clear message to LGBTQ students: you are not welcome here.
The LGBTQ groups said the nature of the pandemic made an already bad situation worse, as the students targeted by such “malicious behavior” are already unable to meet up in person to provide support to each other.
The hijackers infiltrated the zoom call after finding the details from an address posted within the college for the welcoming event.
Durham University spoke out against the attack, insisting such offensive behavior “will not be tolerated.”
The attack comes in light of a string of discriminatory incidents at the university, including reports by The Guardian that students were being bullied and harassed over their northern accents and coming from poorer areas.
Just last month Durham University condemned offensive social media posts directed at incoming students, which they called “utterly abhorrent,” and included messages about a competition to have sex with “the poorest girl.”
The university’s director of student support and wellbeing, Sam Dale, reported that the university was aware of the “Zoom bombing” and insisted, “Every member of the university is expected to treat others with respect and tolerance so that every member of our community can live, study and work in a safe and inclusive environment.”
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