New Bomb Threats At HBCUs Evoke Past Fears

Historically Black colleges and universities across the country continue to receive bomb threats
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Historically Black colleges and universities across the country continue to receive bomb threats as part of what federal law enforcement agencies characterized as a connected series of hate crimes. The threats, the latest of which occurred Tuesday, have been made on three separate occasions—on Jan. 4, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1—and have prompted affected colleges to either lock down or evacuate their campuses, direct students to shelter in their dorms or elsewhere, and move classes online.

A few colleges even went so far as to relocate students to hotels. The frequency and expanse of the threats, coming at a time when campuses have already been disrupted by the pandemic and the continued reverberations of the racial justice protests of 2020, as well as the recent high-profile court trials of police and civilians charged with murdering unarmed Black men, have left students and the leaders of these colleges reeling.

David Wilson, president of Morgan State University in Maryland, is concerned about the mental health and emotional well-being of his students after Morgan State was among the more than a dozen HBCUs that received bomb threats Tuesday.

Administrators shut down the Baltimore campus Tuesday morning and issued a shelter-in-place order, moving classes online for the remainder of the day. No suspicious items were found, and an all-clear message went out, “following a thorough and exhaustive sweep of the campus and its buildings, including all residential facilities on and off site,” a tweet from the university said.

But Wilson said the bomb threat marks yet another trauma his students have had to experience in their lifetimes, on top of the killings of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and many other unarmed Black citizens “who look like them” by law enforcement and white vigilantes, as well as a pandemic that disproportionately affected communities of color.

“My initial concern was the fact that my students were getting the message, once again, that this society hates them because of the color of their skin,” he said.

Though no explosives were found on the campuses this week and all-clear notices were issued, much like after a similar spate of threats in early January, the threats rattled students, parents, faculty and staff members, and prompted a groundswell of support from local, state and federal policy makers.

Members of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions issued a statement Wednesday condemning the threats and calling for a briefing on the investigation of the recurring bomb threats by Department of Justice representatives.

“Such acts of intimidation, which threaten both the safety and education of students enrolled at HBCUs, are of grave concern and we must work to protect these remarkable institutions and their students,” the statement said. Read more.

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