Several student leaders representing HBCUs met with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to share their concerns after their schools were the targets of bomb threats, NBC News reports.
The lawmakers along with representatives from the FBI, Department of Education, and Department of Homeland Security met with the students to see how they could support them and their schools in the aftermath of the racist bomb threats.
Kylie Burke, president of the Howard University Student Association, said that the tumultuous time felt like a “weight” as she and her classmates tried to make sense of the bomb threats on campus.
“Students were repeatedly woken up to safety alerts as late as 2 a.m.,” Burke said, “leaving us constantly on edge as it felt the next threat was all but imminent.”
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who first called for the hearing back in February, “Any threat to these historic institutions cannot stand without severe consequences."
“It is incumbent upon this committee to demand answers on these disturbing attacks and reassure students, faculty, and staff of the HBCU community that their fundamental right to safety, adequate education, and overall well-being is protected,” he added.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., chairman of the subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said that the “perpetrators behind these acts obviously targeted Black colleges and universities, seeking to disrupt and terrorize” these communities. “No other colleges or universities have been targeted and disrupted in the same fashion as HBCUs,” he added.
As EBONY previously reported, since January, at least 36 HBCUs have received 54 bomb threats forcing them to lock down or postpone classes. The threats were investigated by local and state police, the ATF, and the FBI.
“The FBI is aware of the series of bomb threats around the country and we are working with our law enforcement partners to address any potential threats,” the bureau said in a statement at the time. “As always, we would like to remind members of the public that if they observe anything suspicious to report it to law enforcement immediately.”
In response to the ongoing risks, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that HBCUs are eligible for grants to expand their security capabilities.
The Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) initiative, under the umbrella of the Department of Education, seeks to provide resources for mental health and bolster campus security with short-term, immediate funding for institutions that have experienced a “violent or traumatic incident.”
HBCUs could receive grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 which will be determined based on the school’s specific needs.
Harris said the initiative “will make clear that every American should be able to learn, work, worship, and gather without fear,”
Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, categorized the threats as crimes fueled by hate and racism.
“These threats were hate crimes,” Adams said. “They were acts of terror. As a proud HBCU alumna and professor, I know HBCUs can overcome any challenge, but those challenges shouldn’t include violence. Terrorism and racism have no place on college campuses—or anywhere else.”
Emmanuel Ukot, president of the Student Government Association at Xavier University in Louisiana, noted how bomb threats impacted his classmates.
Some students “were too nervous and paranoid to attend classes for the remainder of the week,” he said.
Despite the dangerous reality of the bomb threats, the students are committed to pursuing their education.
Devan M. Vilfrard, a student at Florida A&M University and serves as associate chief justice of its Student Supreme Court, said that “HBCUs have provided a path toward success in pursuing the American dream for Black Americans.”