Protecting Community Spaces in a Virtual World

Colorful plastic people game pieces

The fast pivot to a virtual world pushed the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) into some quick thinking about how we provide “protected” social and learning spaces for the individuals that engage with our training and programs. “Zoombombing,” video conferencing etiquette and privacy questions challenged us to adopt some shared practices that help us reduce harmful disruptions, bias impact and harassment.

While our list continues to grow, we’d like to share a few of the ways we are working to curate inclusive and equitable virtual spaces where participants feel seen, heard and valued during COVID-19 physical distancing.

Things to Consider

  1. Designate 1-2 additional co-hosts, who are not presenting or leading the session, to be responsible for monitoring the chat window, managing questions and assessing the general health of the space.
  2. Before beginning the session, offer community practices, expectations and/or guidelines for engaging in the space and invite the group to contribute their own. Use the waiting room and chat box to clearly communicate the guidelines. Examples include:
    • “We practice challenge by choice. Participate in ways that honor the purpose and spirit of the space and that feel meaningful and protected for you.”
    • “Participants’ video and audio will be muted upon entering. If you wish to speak, please use the ‘raise hand’ function.”
  3. For “public” events, adjust chat settings to allow ONLY chatting with the host(s) and/or everyone. Disable private chat and only allow direct communication with hosts. Use the waiting room function to offer additional protection for participants in the space.
  4. Require pre-registration and send the event or program link the day of the program, training or support session. For added protection, require authentication to participate.
  5. Offer information and links to other support services that might be helpful. At NC State, these include the Counseling Center, CARES, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, Bias Impact Response Team, Equal Opportunity and Equity, Survivor Support Services, Suicide Prevention and many others.
  6. Remember that virtual backgrounds and/or having their camera off may offer some participants an added layer of protection or privacy.

OIED, along with countless campus partners, strives to create opportunities for community connection and support, particularly for individuals and groups that experience marginalization and underrepresentation. This commitment continues as we “Think and Do” in the virtual world.

Something Working Well for You?

We’d love to hear about some of the virtual practices for creating protected space that have worked for you or that have felt meaningful.  Feel free to email us at if you’d like to share.

To learn more about BIRT or to submit an impact report, please visit You may also email for more information.