*The White House announced Wednesday a series of actions the administration is taking to address the surge in bomb threats directed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In an event convened by Vice President Kamala Harris, the multi-agency and multi-faceted support provided to HBCUs discussed ranged from new funding eligibility to closer coordination with the administration.
Since January, a spate of bomb threats targeted over 57 institutions, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. In February, the day after 14 HBCUs were targeted the FBI called its investigation into the threats its highest priority. Nevertheless, the bomb threats have left students, faculty, parents and community members unsettled with only six juvenile suspects identified to date.
Building on the record $5.8 billion in funding to date for HBCUs and months of close coordination between the administration and HBCUs, Vice President Kamala Harris announced two additional steps from the administration specifically addressing the bomb threats. HBCUs that have recently experienced bomb threats will now be eligible for additional grant funds. The Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program at the Education Department would provide short-term, immediate funding for HBCUs for incidents classified as violent or traumatic.
The grants typically ranging from $50,000-$150,000 assist in restoring a safe learning environment after a campus has experienced a disruption. Thomas Hudson, Jackson State University President, said his university could “get a lot done” with the additional grant funding by using it to “supplement efforts already underway” for training and improved security. Hudson also laid out how HBCU presidents striving for “preparedness and long-term sustainability” versus a reactionary posture have been aided by the efforts of the administration.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized the “painful history of violence against Black Americans that is uniquely traumatizing to HBCU students, faculty and staff” as he remarked upon on the agency’s response to the bomb threats. He also underscored the toll the threats have taken on the mental health and the shaken sense of security of HBCU students. The Project SERV grants provide funding for mental health services to help those impacted by the threats return to a sense of normalcy.
Attorney General Merrick Garland detailed the Department of Justice response that spans 31 field offices and coordination with state and local law enforcement agencies. He remarked, “no one in this country should have to fear hate-fueled violence”, and warned the DOJ will be “relentless in [their] efforts to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute hate-filled violence and threats of violence”.
Deputy Secretary John Tien outlined how the Department of Homeland Security is providing HBCUs with “information, intelligence, resources, and investments required to identify and mitigate potential threats.” The White House recently held a multi-agency HBCU symposium on campus safety and resilience. The Project SERV grants along with support from DHS could be used to enhance the physical security and strengthen risk mitigation capabilities; including bond prevention and active shooter preparedness.
Also announced today, the Biden-Harris administration is releasing a centralized resource guide of the programs and technical assistance from the Education Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice Department, and Health and Human Services. These services include federal assistance with long-term improvements to campus mental health programs, campus safety, and emergency management planning and response.
The day’s event demonstrated that Vice President Harris’ message, “this intimidation will not stand,” was not merely rhetoric. For those worried that the threats against HBCUs are not taken seriously enough, the comprehensive response and support detailed at the White House HBCU Project SERV initiative event could go a long way in allaying their concerns.
Reecie Colbert is the founder of BlackWomenViews Media. She is renowned for her unique mix of bold, intelligent, and unfiltered commentary. Colbert is a political and culture commentator appearing weekly on the Roland Martin Unfiltered Show and the Clay Cane Show on SiriusXM radio.