Bomb threats at HBCUs continue

Venerable Lee Hall on FAMU’s campus. Photo courtesy

On Jan. 31, the day before the start of Black History Month, there were at least 14 reports of bomb threats targeting HBCUs — and some of the schools went into lockdowns for at least part of the day.

The threats at universities included: Bowie State, Delaware State, Southern, Albany State, Bethune-Cookman and Howard. They came on the heels of a series of threats in January that targeted some of these same institutions as well as other HBCUs, including Florida Memorial in Miami.

The bomb threats have led to the cancellation of classes, lockdowns and police investigations. Students have been asking if there might be any alternative motives, and if targeting HBCUs qualifies as a hate crime.

Bomb threats were also reported last month at some of elite Ivy League schools in the Northeast.

Third-year Florida A&M  student Ricky Murray believes there may be a connection to HBCUs making in-roads in athletics.

“I feel like ever since top recruits have been coming to HBCUs, it’s taking money away from PWIs,” Murray said. “When Deion Sanders came to coach [Jackson State], it really put a spotlight on us collectively and I think there’s just been hatred that’s started to build up … we just have to stay positive.”

Although there have not been any recent bomb threats at FAMU, it is important to be aware of the university’s policies and procedures should a threat take place. Anyone who has been contacted by phone, text or given a note of some kind, should follow the bomb threat checklist provided by the FAMU Police Department and gain as much information from the suspect as possible.

Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida — the union representing faculty at all 12 public universities in Florida — issued a statement last week that addressed the bomb threats.

“We condemn these ongoing bomb threats targeted against Black people in our state at three HBCUs,” Gothard said. “We stand opposed to racism, bigotry and white supremacy in all its forms.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, six suspects have been identified as persons of interest in the bomb threats. All six are juveniles. Because it is an active investigation, some information has yet to be released.

In the case of a bomb threat on FAMU’s campus, FAMU Police Chief Terrence Callaway says there are protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

“The university will make the call as to either shelter in place or evacuate the buildings,” Calloway said in a release. “The communication for these procedures will happen via Blackboard connect,  iStrike, social media, news outlets and sirens on campus.”

The recent  bomb threats have possibly impacted students’ well-being on FAMU’s campus. Counseling services are available on campus for anyone who has worries or concerns. You can contact the Office of Counseling Services at (850) 599-3145 or visit their office in Suite 304 of the CASS building.