In the aftermath of back-to-back bomb threats that triggered residence hall evacuations and campus-wide investigations last week, officials at Howard University (HU) continue to speak out against antagonistic acts that have not only rocked the local, historically Black college but several others across the U.S. this year.
HU Bison of various ages and backgrounds converged on The Yard on August 26 in solidarity against these bomb threats. During the #HUCares event, coordinated by HU’s Office of University Communications, the Office of the Chapel and the Office of Student Affairs, students enjoyed each other’s company while dancing to music and eating snacks.
More important, students engaged in conversations about the bomb threats university police received earlier in the week. The first bomb threat on Tuesday, Aug. 23 targeted HU’s Cook Hall. Less than two days later on Aug 25, East and West Towers, home to 1,800 students, became the target of another bomb threat.
During both incidents, students in their first week of class left their dorms in droves in the middle of the night.
“It was difficult for me to witness in person students sitting in Banneker Park and heading to trailers on Sherman Avenue and crossing Georgia Avenue on their way to Blackburn Center in their pajamas and sleepwear,” HU President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in an August 26 letter.
“This is terrorism and it must stop,” he added. “Nonetheless, I was impressed by their orderly nature and model citizenry in times of crisis and maintaining care for the Howard community through sharing accurate information about incident statuses and personal safety in traditional media and social spaces. Your accurate information sharing is helping us to mitigate the crisis.”
These recent incidents bring the total bomb threats received by HU this calendar year to eight. Investigators said they have leads on the origins of calls. University officials also continue to confer with federal officials looking into bomb threats made against other HBCUs.
At the beginning of this year, at least seven other HBCUs, including Norfolk State University, North Carolina Central University and Prairie View A&M University, received bomb threats that triggered lockdowns and investigations. That trend continued throughout Black History Month and the rest of the year as HBCU leaders expressed frustration with the White House about investigations that didn’t result in any arrests, even as universities incurred costs to boost security measures.
The FBI has since reportedly identified six teenagers of interest who used technology to disguise their voices while carrying out the racially motivated bomb threats. Higher-level agents within the bureau later spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, during which they admitted the difficulty they had deciphering the perpetrators’ encrypted messages.
The U.S. Department of Education has made available funds for HBCUs to be used for responses to bomb threats, like security and mental health resources. However, some HBCU administrators have described the application process as cumbersome.
During the earlier part of August, HU welcomed freshmen during Bison Week. While activities focused on various aspects of the HU experience, administrators also touted safety as a priority. They highlighted university police escorts who remain available to students. Days later, in his letter to community members, Frederick encouraged faculty members to act compassionately toward students reeling from bomb threats.
Over the last few days, politicians and community members have taken to social media to weigh in on the bomb threats. In a statement, U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) championed the passage of the Bombing Prevention Act that would establish an office to address terroristic threats centered on explosives.
“The bomb threat at Howard University reminds us these threats are real and HBCUs are the most targeted,” Malinowski said. “No person should have to work, study or worship while living in fear of a terrorist bombing.”
Meanwhile, Josh Jacobson, a District resident who’s running for a Ward 1 ANC seat, made clear his thoughts about the bomb threats that continue to be aimed at HBCUs across the country.
The pattern is clear between the threats this week and those to other HBCUs this year,” Jacobson said on Twitter, Aug. 26. “White supremacists are doing this to terrorize students. My thoughts are with the students and I hope the FBI catches the perpetrators.”