We must call these bomb threats what they are— terrorism, racism and psychological warfare. Even in our own communities, schools and, now, our places of rest, we are subjected to a society that enables violence towards Black people. It overwhelmingly feels like the trauma we endure is being ignored and desensitized.
One week into the academic school year, Howard University received two bomb threats to our campus. The recent scares bring the total number of bomb threats this calendar year to eight, causing concern and anxiety for many students.
Previous threats have been made to academic buildings on campus, and have been described by law enforcement as racially motivated. What makes the recent two bomb threats notably different from the prior is the location – student dormitories – taking the fear associated with the threats to new psychological levels.
On Aug. 23, students residing in Cook Hall were ordered to evacuate the building at 11:13 p.m. after a threat was made naming the building and its address. DPS issued an “all clear” at 1 a.m. Aug. 24, and the students were able to return to their rooms. Two days later, students living in Howard University Plaza Towers were ordered to evacuate the buildings when a similar threat was made.
In both occurrences, students were awoken from their sleep and disrupted from their routines to respond to intimidation tactics. Students were dispersed over campus for hours, staying on the Yard, parking lots and in friends’ dorms anxiously waiting for an “all clear.”
Iyinoluwa Tugbobo, a senior computer science major, was one of the hundreds of students who had to evacuate their dorm in Howard Plaza Towers due to a bomb threat made in the middle of the night.
“It feels very uneasy. I know that these calls are mostly going to be hoaxes but it’s still very uncomfortable to be told that a threat like that is being made,” Tugbobo said. “I wish they would be more transparent about what they’re actually doing during these bomb threat evacuations. They are responding quickly to these threats but I felt very left in the dark as we waited for local police to finish.”
It has been six months since the initial string of bomb threats had occured against Howard and 19 other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). At this time, there have been no arrests or suspects named, raising concern of how long it will be until our institutions see justice.
“This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves 31 FBI field offices that are actively working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to identify those involved. The FBI is investigating these cases as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes,” the FBI stated in a release earlier this year.
This is not to say that our own institution isn’t taking this matter gravely; I believe that Howard’s response has been one of urgency and precaution. In an email sent on Aug. 26, President Wayne A.I. Frederick stated, “This isn’t about resilience and grit. We require extra resources from all law enforcement agencies directed towards solving this ongoing threat and bringing those who perpetrate its negative effects to full justice under the law.”
While the #HUcares event was a pleasant display of our institutions ability for fellowship and compassion during hard times, it was not nearly enough to offset the impending fear that these threats are reoccurring when little has been done on a federal level.
It is the government response that evokes feelings of frustration and disappointment from myself and my peers.
“These threats don’t feel like a priority to these legislators,” Tye Compton, a junior political science major, said. “Their attitude towards this is not as severe as it needs to be. They’re not taking an important step to address the severity of this issue. We are an HBCU, we are a minority institution, the fact that students are suffering mentally and academically – there are academic ramifications to this.”
Speaking on the severity of this issue is the bare minimum, and the Howard University community has yet to receive that from some of our notable officials. When threats against our schools go unaddressed, it sends a message to our perpetrators that their actions can be dismissed without consequence. Many of our local elected officials, who ran on promises of improved safety in the District, have been silent on the consecutive threats made against our university.
In March, Vice President Kamala Harris and the Department of Education announced the Project School Emergency Response to Violence program, or Project SERV, for institutions that have been negatively impacted by repeated bomb threats that started earlier this year. According to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, “These grants are intended to provide a limited amount of funds to meet acute needs and restore the learning environment.”
However, since March, neither Harris nor the Department of Education have addressed the recurring problem at hand.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew [Correction: This article updated “HBCU students” to “institutions” for clarity on who can apply for the Project School Emergency Response to Violence Program.]