Schools across the country have had to deal with a slew of logistics issues with graduation ceremonies transitioning into virtual events as a result of social distancing efforts made in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, some colleges and universities are having to navigate through a different kind of problem whilst moving their ceremonies online.
Oklahoma City University’s top official has had to apologize after a racist and “hate-filled attack” occurred during the school’s virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 9, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.
OCU President Martha Burger says her institution condemns all forms of hatred and bigotry.
"We are heartbroken and outraged at the hate-filled attack that occurred at the end of our virtual graduation celebration today," Burger said in a statement. "During a time that should have been focused on recognizing our graduating students, an unknown source was able to bypass the system and display racist and offensive language. I want to be clear, OCU stands against racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism."
It’s unclear as to what exactly was displayed, however a parent of a graduate who was viewing the graduation told KOCO 5 that the ceremony came to a screeching halt when the site was hacked with racial slurs and swastikas put on the screen just as 2020 graduate Jay Williams, who is Black, was giving the opening blessing.
OCU officials said they are in the process of filing a report to federal and state authorities and have assured that "all participant data is provided to investigators." The school will also work with law enforcement officials as they identify those involved in the attack.
"We are deeply hurt and saddened by the pain that has been inflicted upon our community," Burger continued. "The class of 2020 has been champions of diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to show love and support to each other as a university family in the aftermath of this hate."
U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn also released a statement in regards to the racist hack:
"I am heartbroken and angered by the racist and anti-Semitic actions that defaced today’s Oklahoma City University graduation ceremony. It is especially tragic that this hate-filled attack marred a day meant for celebration, a day already made harder by the inability to gather in person due to the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.
“This type of hate crime serves as a potent reminder that we still have much work to do. Hate lays the groundwork for violence and we must stand together against it. To heal these deep wounds, we must look with unflinching honesty at the sources of extremism, acknowledge and learn from our past, listen to each other, and share our experiences. We cannot, nor will we, turn a blind eye to this behavior. We are stronger when the diversity of our communities is celebrated.”
She continued: "Let me be clear -- racism must not be tolerated in our community. We must hold those responsible accountable and confront racism wherever it exists."