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Black Studies Center, UW President, Hold Town Hall Meeting After Racist Attack

Screenshot / University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming's Black Studies Center and UW President Ed Seidel held a town hall meeting on February 24 to address the recent racist Zoom-bombing attack that occurred during a live virtual panel on February 15.

The panel was organized as part of UW's Black History Month programming, and the topic was a discussion on the death of Tulsa's Black Wall Street. About 30 minutes into the discussion, unknown participants began voicing racial slurs, including the n-word, from behind blank screens. A graphic video depicting a violent assault was also broadcast. This particular kind of cyber hacking is known as "Zoom bombing."

This week's town hall featured Seidel and a panel of campus leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion. They took questions about topics that included UW police funding, retention rates of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who work as faculty and staff and also talked about educating the Laramie community, students, and UW staff on racism. Additionally, they discussed an anti-discrimination bill that's being worked on in the Wyoming Legislature.

Black Studies Center director, Dr. Fredrick Douglass Dixon, who was one of the panelists for the town hall said that while this is a great starting point, there needs to be a direct follow-up. "We have to move from just another town hall meeting to creating goals that ties to resources, and a genuine and public support from President Seidel," he said.

Dixon added that it's easy for the public to lose interest when there isn't direct or concrete follow-up in a timely manner. "We've seen this before," Dixon said. "Where there is a major event, where the community comes out, and they're concerned genuinely. And they'd like to have change, genuinely. And systematically, it may not become as important a week later than it was in the actual event, Dixon noted."So when we think about that, we're getting close to being two weeks outside of that event. So traditionally, those are the times when people began to lose interest."

During the town hall meeting, President Seidel expressed his hope to have more frequent discussions like these moving forward.

Other panelists present were Dr. Jacquelyn Bridgeman, UW's Kepler Professor of Law and director of the School of Culture, Gender, and Social Justice. As well as Timberly Vogel who is the Black Studies Center director for community engagement.

Dr. Dixon posted a statement on behalf of the Black Studies Center regarding this attack that can be found here.

Naina Rao comes to Wyoming Public Radio from Jakarta, Indonesia. She has worked at NPR for Story Lab and the nationally syndicated show, "1A". Naina graduated from Michigan State University in 2018 with a B.A. in Journalism. Naina enjoys swimming, listening to podcasts and watching Bollywood movies.
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