On the day before Black History Month was set to begin, a caller claiming to be a neo-Nazi called in and said there was a bomb at Bethune-Cookman University and that there would be a shooting around lunchtime.
No bombs were found, and no shooting took place. But the call to BCU turned out to be part of a larger plan across the county by individuals to target and threaten historically black colleges and universities.
“These acts of intimidation and threats of violence, will not be tolerated and have absolutely no place in our institutions of learning,” said Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper of the U.S. Department of Education in a call with educators from across the country. “The timing of these threats to coincide with the first day of Black History Month was a likely attempt to exploit tensions amongst some factions of our society.”
In a roundtable led by the Southern Poverty Law Center leaders from HBCU institutions discussed what they are doing to work with law enforcement to keep students and faculty safe, while also ensuring that threats do not derail education.
“We certainly know that acts of hate are nothing new to HBCU, these schools are rooted in resilience,” said Dr. Felecia M. Nave, president, of Alcorn State University.
On Jan. 5 eight schools received bomb threats, there were six more between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. The FBI has identified at least six juveniles as possible persons of interest in these threats.
Schools say students haven’t been resilient to the threats, noting this is something they’ve dealt with before.
“They’re really being to an extent encouraged and emboldened by what our institution stands for,” said Dr. Anne McCall, senior vice president and provost at Xavier University. “And the fact is that they’re not going to be intimidated, they’re not going to be scared.”
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