Federal government stepping in to help HBCUs following bomb threats

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dozens of college campuses remain on edge after bomb threats canceled classes across the country earlier this year.

Months later, there are still no arrests and FBI and Homeland Security officials are continuing to investigate why dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were targeted.

Morgan State University in Baltimore is home to nearly 8,000 students and it’s a place of education and Black pride.

But during the early morning hours of February 1, students say someone tried to take away that pride with a bomb threat. Students sheltered in place in their dorms for hours and police searched every building on campus.

“While there was that initial shock and fear, I was just angry,” said Bria Bailey, a junior at Morgan State University. “I was angry that this was targeting HBCUs. That they were targeting Black students and for what it was just chaotic and caused so much disarray for absolutely no reason other than the hate.”

Dozens of HBCUs nationwide, including Spelman College, Mississippi Valley State and Edward Waters University, reported bomb threats between January to mid-February.

The Washington News Bureau team went to MSU’s campus where students said they still remember this moment vividly.

“It was infuriating,” said Kayla Holt, a freshman at Morgan State University. “Because what, what did we do?”

FBI officials are calling these threats domestic terrorism and they’ve identified six teenage suspects.

“You’re causing terror all over the place when you’re doing it for sport and that just made it a lot more hard to swallow,” said Holt.

Ryan Young, who works as the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s intelligence branch, met with members of Congress about these threats in March. He told lawmakers the agency is working to make arrests in these 59 cases which also includes threats minority houses of worship too.

“We take this seriously and our intention is to bring these individuals to justice and with justice should hopefully mitigate future people who think they can intimidate at and discriminate against populations of color,” said Young.

The FBI said no bombs were found after these threats, but students and staff say the impact still resonates on campus.

“It’s just it takes a toll,” said Tyler Mitchell, a freshman at Morgan State University. “And, some Americans may just be so used to [threats] and jaded to it, but it’s absurd and it’s so crazy and it shouldn’t be discounted how un-okay that is!”

The U.S. Department of Education is now offering thousands of dollars in grants to HBCUs to help them address mental health support and security needs. The agency said the funding for Project SERV grants are limited, and awards range from $50,000 to $150,000 per school.

“We have not yet awarded any HBCU SERV grants this year.  However, we have received applications which we are reviewing, and we expect to make awards later this year,” said an Education Department spokesperson in a written statement.

Back at Morgan State University, faculty say they’re hiring more police officers and mental health counselors for campus.

“We’re going to be launching Mental Health First Aid training for the whole university, to make sure that people understand and know the triggers of signs of mental health, and how to support one another,” said Kevin Banks, Vice President of Student Affairs at Morgan State University.

While these threats caused chaos, students say it also reaffirmed why their presence as HBCUs are so vital.

“We’re all here to uplift one another. We’re all here to support one another and that’s the beautiful thing about attending a school with people who look like me,” said Bailey.

Since these threats started, more than 40 HBCU Presidents have met with the Departments of Education and Homeland Security about training resources and grants to help improve campus safety and security.