There is no shortage of words to describe living on a campus that has received multiple bomb threats. It is a daunting, awe-stricken type of pain that you experience.
Yesterday, was no different. Some students were stuck in their respective buildings while others were left stranded outside for over an hour as confusion and chaos engulfed the campus. A violent act on a day of love could not be more destructive.
“The shelter in place and continuous bomb threats cause me anxiety and stress every time,” said College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) Student Council President Mariah Cooley. “The disheartening fact is that there are people in this world who want to hurt me and my peers because of the color of our skin and the rich history of our institution.”
The only direct connection to racial motivation came from one of the callers who phoned in a threat against Bethune-Cookman University and claimed to be affiliated with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, the Associated Press reported. Students at other institutions were informed that the FBI discovered a number of individuals involved with the crime.
“The FBI has confirmed that it has identified six “tech-savvy” juveniles from across the country as persons of interest in threats to historically Black colleges and universities that started on January 4, 2022,” wrote the Department of Public Safety in an email on Feb. 2.
Many thought it would end there, so when Howard received its fourth threat it came as a surprise. Threats at the beginning of the year on Jan. 4 and Jan. 31 alongside Feb. 1 at the start of Black history month and Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day seem specific and intentional. Numerous Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Florida A&M University and Fisk University were affected.
“These are acts of terrorism. The fact that they haven’t led to an explosion, thank God, does not change the fact that these are acts of terrorism,” said Southern Poverty Law Center chief of staff Lecia Brooks during a roundtable with university leaders.
These attacks are strategically undermining the learning environment at HBCUs across the nation through a sense of disruption and seriously wounding the emotional well-being of students.
The coincidences align with disturbing the presence of order and instructional time on our campuses. Black institutions are being targeted with hate crimes and have received little justice for it.
“As we mark the beginning of Black History Month, we must remember what the Black community has endured, overcome and achieved despite the threats against us and the hate we have received,” wrote President Wayne A. I. Frederick in a statement released on Feb. 1. “We each have a role to play to ensure that Howard continues to serve as a beacon for social justice and equal rights.”
After the first two threats classes continued. However, once the third threat ensued student leaders advocated for various programs to ease the stress on campus. The first suggestion was a mental health day which was granted on Feb. 4.
“I am particularly encouraged to see that administration has been agreeable to our suggestions such as publicly providing recordings of Town Hall conversations,” said HUSA Student Body President Kylie Burke in an interview with The Hilltop.“While it is important for students to receive communication when decisions or changes are made, I think what we (the student body as a whole) are truly looking for is the opportunity to be a part of the decision making process.”
HUSA also suggested that new resources were provided to prevent students’ mental health from deteriorating in such frightening times. In addition to sending out information on the University’s counseling services and a hotline, administration also hosted Healing at Howard. A space where campus affiliates could openly share their feelings and concerns.
“Healing at Howard allowed students to engage with faculty and administrators in a vulnerable and yet insightful way,” said Cooley. “Students were able to voice their concerns, leave suggestions, and work on solutions with those in highest power at Howard; we’re all people who love our university and are trying to create a space that protects and empowers us.”
The new event was brought back in co-partnership with the COAS Student Council.
“A successful healing and learning outcome will be achieved when the University community feels that it has been heard, is understood and can trust that action is being taken. This process must be implemented with thoughtfulness and patience and come from a place of genuine care,” wrote Vice President Cynthia Evers in regards to healing at Howard.
Though these are scary times, it is beautiful to see administration and students supporting one another but demoralizing to see these threats continue. I want to hear more elected officials speaking out about this. I want to see the culprits brought into the limelight instead of the HBCUs they’re trying to invoke fear upon. I want to feel protected and safe by the leadership of our beloved University.