Zoom is disrupted during CHESS talk series


Anna Mae Malesiewski, Staff Writer

The first talk of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences’ Fall 2020 CHESS Speaker Series titled “Racial Justice: Be the Change” faced technical difficulties with Zoom.

The event, which took place Aug. 25 in the third-floor atrium of the Palumbo Academic Center, was held in light of the recently increased focus on racial justice and racial issues. The talk series’ goal is to highlight the calls for change and advocacy that have dominated the nation.

The series kicked off with “1619 Virginia to 16503 Erie: The Constitutional Path to Black Lives Matter.”

The talk, given by Parris Baker, Ph.D., a longtime Gannon faculty member in the social work and honors programs, was attended by almost 20 students and faculty, including Lori Lindley, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences. Numerous students also attempted to attend via Zoom.

Baker focused on systemic racism and its effects, especially within the Erie community.

The talk was intended to examine how racism has been embedded in the United States from its foundation and various historical events, all of which have led to the current Black Lives Matter movement.

Baker highlighted ways to foster change and illuminated the desire to initiate change at both the macro and micro levels and showed how the foundations of slavery connect to current times.

“There is a pathway that leads from the colonization of America, 1619 Jamestown Virginia, right to the zip code 16503,” Baker said. “It is the institutions that socialize people to think and feel and behave.”

But before the talk even began, it was disrupted.

After it was announced that the talk would start soon, a Zoom attendee gained access to share their screen. On the screen was a brief video of a shirtless Black man twerking.

Almost as quickly as this video appeared, the Zoom meeting was shut down. The disruption lasted only about 10 seconds before the Zoom streaming ended.

An email was sent out to virtual attendees notifying them that there were technical difficulties. The talk continued live in the third-floor atrium; however, an option to view the event using Zoom was not made avaliable. A recording of the live talk was published on YouTube, so participants could still view it virtually at a later time.

Despite the interruption. Baker said he still believes the event was a success. Students and faculty were still engaged, many even asking questions and giving feedback after the conclusion of the talk.

“The talk was excellent, and Dr. Baker had great discussion with the attendees who were there in person,” Lindley said.

All in all, Baker believes the message was well received. The talk went on as planned (minus the Zoom option), and he received engagement from students and faculty as if nothing had gone awry.

“I am pleased to say that people were disappointed that they didn’t get to participate directly so they could ask questions,” Baker said. “But all the feedback, even from the people who saw it on YouTube, was phenomenal. If it was the goal of the person who did this to disrupt it, they failed.”

Olivia Panetta, a freshman criminal justice major, shares the same sentiment.

“I want to thank CHESS and Honors, as well as the audience, for not letting an issue with our Zoom take a moment’s time away from Dr. Baker’s message,” Panetta said.

“They moved swiftly so that a brief disturbance did not take focus away from the event. Though we did not have a huge audience, virtually and in-person, this talk did not lose its power.”

This incident will not impact the rest of the talk series going forward. The rest of the series is set to continue as normal and will be livestreamed again on Zoom as well as available for in-person attendance in the third-floor atrium of the Palumbo Academic Center.

The university is also looking into ways to ensure that a disruption like this does not happen again.

“ITS is working with Zoom to improve security,” Lindley said. “In addition, we are looking into the webinar feature for Zoom, which allows only presenters to be viewed and heard by attendees.”

Some of the remaining talks in the series will focus on globalization, the question of funding for police departments and the history of policing in the United States.

The next event will be from 10:10 a.m. to 11:05 a.m. Tuesday with a focus on globalization.

Those interested in other events should visit EngageU.


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