Targets of bomb threats, HBCUs can get help, money from federal government

Colleges and universities can get grants to make campuses more secure and provide care for students.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have been targeted in bomb threats and had to cancel classes or shut down parts of campuses can apply for relief under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program, according to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Department of Education.

Project SERV gives both institutions of higher education and local educational agencies funding during times of crisis, including violent threats, so that they may continue operations and instruction safely. Dozens of HBCUs have received bomb threats – and some continue to experience them, like Morehouse College – since the beginning of the year, especially around the anniversary of the January 6 Insurrection and the start of Black History Month in February.

“The recent bomb threats experienced by HBCUs have shaken students and fractured their sense of safety and belonging, which are critical to their academic success and wellbeing,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said. “We recognize how these threats evoke a painful history of violence against Black Americans in this country that is especially traumatizing to HBCU students, faculty and staff.”

ED said it will assist institutions that have immediate crisis needs, including mental health or security improvements. The Project SERV awards likely would range between $50,000 and $150,000.

There also has been a push by 64 organizations with ties to higher education, as well as from legislators on both sides of the political aisle, to try to help curb the violent threats, which eclipsed more than 8,000 in 2020 alone. House leaders have proposed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would both track and prosecute those who engage in these threats. Until there is substantive change, those threats are likely to continue. The Department of Homeland Security has warned of the potential of more serious attacks on some of the nation’s “soft targets” including colleges.

More from UB: Can Congress and the FBI help stop the repeatedly bomb threats at HBCUs?

All of the threats have put students on edge on their campuses, complicating already tenuous environments where they are still struggling to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students attend HBCUs to build community, feel safe and strengthen their identity,” said Seli Fakorzi, director of mental health operations at provider TimelyMD. “For students who are first in their family to attend college, I can’t even put into words the level of stress these students feel like they’re under. What’s being targeted is their very identity. When you layer in 400 years of systemic racism and a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people, it’s a lot for anyone to handle. The Black community is resilient, and we are also tired. Bomb threats to HBCUs have left students who have, up until recently, had relatively good mental health feeling helpless, isolated and anxious.”

In an effort to quell the threats, Cardona and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met with more than 40 HBCU presidents to address their concerns, and other Biden Administration leaders have toured campuses to get a sense of how much modernizing needs to happen to ensure that buildings and other locations are secure.

ED has promised a compendium of resources for HBCUs, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also offers a number of resources to help, including checklists for bomb threat procedures to institutions.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

Most Popular