Congress addresses bomb threats, security at historically black colleges, universities

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since the beginning of this year, lawmakers say at least 36 historically Black colleges and universities have reported bomb threats with more than a dozen threats on the first day of Black History Month alone.

“It was clear their intentions were to dismantle sacred pinnacles of black excellence,” said Kylie Burke, Student Association President at Howard University.

The FBI is now investigating these threats “investigated as “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”

The agency said this investigation is their highest priority.

While meeting with Congress Thursday, HBCU talked about some of their experiences after bomb threats targeted their schools.

“No threat either real or fictitious could stand against our legacy, our community and our commitment to supporting each other,” said Burke.

No bombs have been found but some schools like Howard University gave students mental health days following the incidents.

“Acknowledging the weight of anxiety felt on campus after students were repeatedly woken up with safety alerts sometimes as late as two and three in the morning constantly leaving us on edge and feeling as if the next threat was all but imminent,” said Burke.

Ryan Young with the FBI’s intelligence branch told Congress the investigation into these threats has expanded and it now includes its cyber and weapons of mass destruction divisions.

“What we’ve seen the rise of this is has been common with what we’ve seen with the number of investigations. I think there is an understanding that people are online, and they are radicalizing even more,” said Young. “And I think that there is a sense that they want to target and intimidate this community and that’s why this is our highest priority.”

Some students are also calling on congress for more funding to help HBCU’s improve security on campus.

“Racially charged acts like the bomb threats are not only an attack on our campus, but they are also an attack on the ideals and the values of HBCU’s and its collective mission,” said Emmanuel Ukot, Student Government Association President at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Lawmakers say there are two bills with bipartisan support that would help these efforts.

The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act would increase federal funding for HBCU’s and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 would expand federal domestic terrorism operations.