SALT LAKE CITY — A virtual poetry slam that was part of Black History Month events at Salt Lake Community College was commandeered on Thursday by hackers who displayed racist and anti-Black messages as well as inappropriate images of children.
SLCC President Deneece Huftalin notified students of the ordeal in a letter noting her heart was “heavy and disappointed.”
“What was meant to be a liberating space for freedom of speech, creative expression and celebration was affronted inexcusably by online hackers,” Huftalin wrote.
“As our country has mourned and protested this year over other social injustices, inequities and harm experienced by our African American and Black community members, this incident reminds us that even very close to home there are people who are intentionally seeking to foster anti-Black messages of hate and new forums where they can find opportunities.”
The school president continued, “There is no space for hateful and racist speech on our campuses.”
SLCC Public Safety, Utah Highway Patrol and the college’s Office of Information Technology are actively investigating the incident and “we will take action against those who were involved.”
The Black Student Union poetry slam was the first of four events planned in observance of Black History Month by SLCC’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs staff, advisers and students.
“My hope is that all of you will stand in support of their work by attending their events, engaging with them in community and conversation, and finding ways to make your own spaces more inclusive,” Hufftalin wrote.
She thanked SLCC’s multicultural initiatives manager Glory Johnson-Stanton and other student affairs and counseling staff who acted quickly to support Black Student Union leaders and students in attendance.
The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the Dean of Students Office and the SLCC Center for Health and Counseling indicated they stand ready to further support and assist students.
Huftalin said the community college will continue to strengthen its “mitigation mechanisms to ensure all our campuses, learning and working spaces, including (now more than ever) online spaces, are free from racism, hate, intimidation and interference with learning.”
This story will be updated.