As bomb threats keep targeting HBCUs, 64 higher ed groups tell Congress to act

Dive Brief:

  • The American Council on Education is calling on Congress to take action following weeks of bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities. A total of 64 higher ed associations and organizations including ACE signed a letter Monday that called the threats acts of terror fueled by racist motivations.
  • The letter asks Congress to begin expedited hearings on “the persistent issues underlying these crimes” and how to prevent them in the future.
  • It also asked Congress to pass a concurrent resolution condemning threats of violence against HBCUs and affirming support for the institutions and their students.

Dive Insight:

More than a dozen HBCUs have been forced to clear campuses and cancel in-person classes following bomb threats this year. Fisk University, in Tennessee, issued a shelter-in-place order Monday after receiving a series of threats. The same day, Howard University, in Washington, D.C., received a bomb threat for the fourth time since the beginning of January and told students and employees to stay indoors.

All-clear notices have since been issued for both Fisk U and Howard U.

ACE wrote to Congressional leaders of both parties after consulting with UNCF, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

“It’s obviously impossible to detach these threats from the fact that they’re targeting Black institutions,” said Jon Fansmith, assistant vice president of government relations at ACE. “I’m surprised at how little national attention has been paid to this issue, considering the significance of HBCUs and the seriousness of the problem.” 

The letter acknowledges ongoing investigations by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. It argues federal lawmakers have unique authority and responsibility to take action. 

“These acts of terror deliberately strike at institutions that have a unique significance to Black Americans and to American higher education,” the letter said. “HBCUs are targeted precisely because they serve as powerful symbols of Black Americans’ strength and achievement. All of America’s colleges and universities pledge to do everything we can to support and enhance these incredible institutions.”

The 64 signing organizations want to force lawmakers to reckon with what is happening, Fansmith said. The bomb threats are not pranks that can be written off as juvenile behavior, he said.

“These are racist terrorist threats to important symbols of the Black community,” said Fansmith. “HBCUs are havens for many of their students. The threats are causing lasting damage, even if it’s not measured in lives or property.”

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