SGA passes legislation calling on administrators to address racist ‘zoom bombings’

A+Student+Assembly+meeting+during+the+Fall+2020+semester.+

Media: Diana Bravo

A Student Assembly meeting during the Fall 2020 semester.

By Diana Bravo, Assistant News Editor

The Student Government Association unanimously passed legislation Tuesday in response to a recent string of racist “Zoom bombing” incidents against student organization members. 

The legislation, titled “An Act to Advocate for LGBTQIA+ Students of Color,” was initially developed in a Student Assembly meeting nearly one month ago following a racist incident against Spectrum, a student organization for LGBTQIA+ students of color. A “Zoom bomb” involves unknown individuals entering a group’s Zoom with cameras off, hurling racist obscenities and disrupting the meeting. Similar incidents occurred in ASIA and Frames per Second meetings.

The legislation calls for the college to take action against racist attacks by allowing the Social Justice Center to create a mandatory annual “cultural tolerance assessment” for all community members. Anyone who fails the assessment would receive feedback and support from the college to help them pass the next time they took it.

“The Emerson College community must do more to ensure the safety of LGBTQIA+ students of color,” the legislation reads.

The legislation also calls for increased accountability for micro and macroaggressions, as well as increased transparency surrounding hate crimes and hate speech investigations. Consequences for such offenses should be detailed in the college’s student handbook, it says. 

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Emerson’s definitions of hate speech and hate crimes should be expanded as well, and the college should take such actions against students seriously, the act says. 

Currently, the college does not have a formal definition for hate speech or hate crimes, instead using the term  “discriminatory harassment.” This definition encompases any behaviors that create a hostile environment for minority individuals. The legislation calls for Emerson to clearly define hate speech and crimes rather than categorizing such behaviors under discriminatory harassment. It does not suggest definitions for hate crimes or hate speech. 

The legislation also asks Emerson to be as transparent as possible about investigating instances of hate crimes and speech as it can under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.

The act is the first piece of legislation passed by the organization under its new legislative model. SGA passed two resolutions during the spring semester, the first of which supported the full time faculty union’s boycott of directed study. The second sought to open a dialogue with administrators about how to fairly compensate students whose courses couldn’t function as normal via Zoom. 

SGA’s legislation has no formal power to make changes at Emerson. Instead, the act serves as a recommendation for college administration. 

SGA also finalized its elections timeline for the fall semester. Candidates will need to fill out an intent form from SGA by Oct. 30 to be eligible for the fall elections, which will take place Nov. 18-20. SGA pushed the elections timeline forward from the traditional end-of-fall time frame and compressed the campaign season to nine days to allow elections to take place before students leave campus for the semester.