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Association of African American Students hosts follow-up call in wake of racist hacking

Following Friday’s attacks on the annual Association of African American Students' (AAAS) cookout over Zoom, the organization hosted a call Monday to discuss the events. 

President Bob Caslen, who released a statement in opposition to the attack, started the meeting with an apology. 

“This is unacceptable, uncalled for, and I'm sorry that you experience it; and, frankly, I'm just sorry that we live in an environment where this type of stuff is occurring,” Caslen said.

Caslen provided updates on the search for the culprits, which is occurring on four fronts: 

  1. The school’s IT department is working with Zoom to digitally track down the offenders. Caslen said Zoom has not yet provided specific information about the wrongdoers, and he does not know “why we don’t have the information yet.”
  2. USCPD, in conjunction with investigative organizations, is conducting a criminal investigation that, if suspects are found, could result in criminal charges.
  3. USC’s Equal Opportunity Office, which provides discrimination reporting and training services, has become “very much involved,” mostly deferring to USCPD. 
  4. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with other diversity-centered organizations on campus, are working with USCPD as well. 

Caslen discussed plans to prevent future attacks as he took questions. Tracey Weldon-Steward, interim vice president of diversity and inclusion, said more could be done currently. 

“If there's interest in some training directly related to this particular issue, I'd be happy to do that,  but that is certainly something that we need to do on a more consistent basis, I think, going forward, as well,” Weldon-Stewart said. 

Weldon-Stewart also said future University 101 courses might include a section on diversity. 

Other minority groups on campus are being taken into account, too. Caslen said comments made by the national administration could lead to a “snowball effect” of discrimination.

“I’m really concerned about, particularly, with this COVID virus is our Asian minority groups,” Caslen said.

April Scott, associate director of mental health services, responded to the apology from third-year public health student Toneia Douglas, the president-elect of AAAS.

“Not to take anything away from her, but this is not on you to apologize for,” Scott said. “In an attempt to make this cookout more accessible to students, someone took advantage of that and made a racist attack.” 

Scott also provided mental health advice for affected students. 

“It’s very easy to feel helpless when you feel like every time you turn around, there's some type of attack on who you are as a person,” Scott said. “Figure out what's in your control, especially if you're feeling helpless and just frustrated — what can you do.” 


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