Students were left feeling threatened and unsafe after an LGBT+ event on Zoom was "hijacked" by callers shouting "homophobic and racist slurs".
A virtual meet-up to welcome Durham University freshers was disrupted by at least 15 people who played loud music, shared "sexually explicit" videos and hurled abuse at the attendees, a coalition of student groups has said.
The anonymous callers were able to join the Zoom call through a link shared internally across St Mary's College's channels.
A joint statement from the Durham LGBT+ Association, the Durham People of Colour Association and St Mary's College LGBT+ Association - who hosted the event earlier this month - said the hijacking of the call was "aggressive" and targeted, adding that it was "nothing less than a hate crime".
"The participants of this call were left feeling upset, threatened and above all, unsafe. It goes without saying that this kind of malicious behaviour is completely and totally unacceptable," the groups said and added:
"The fact that this was not simply an individual acting alone, but rather a coordinated attack from a number of people, is a reminder of how routinely unsafe and unwelcome our community is made to feel."
The university has been informed about incidents of Zoombombing, where uninvited guests share their screens to bombard real attendees with disturbing or distracting content, leaving participants feeling distressed, threatened and unsafe. Such behaviour is not acceptable at Durham University and will not be tolerated. Incidents will be reported to the police.
The Durham University spokesman added: "Every member of the university is expected to treat others with respect and tolerance so that every member of our community can live, study and work in a safe and inclusive environment."