HBCUs Seek More Resources to Grapple with Terroristic Threats: Research and Policy Brief

The recent mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, (the perpetrators’ original target was Edward Waters University, a local Historical Black College or University [HBCU]) raised concerns over the lack of federal support that HBCUs receive to ensure the safety of their students, faculty, staff, and administrators. This recent tragedy, coupled with the many threats that HBCUs have received over the past 18 months, makes ensuring on-campus security a top priority for HBCUs.

Therefore, UNCF asks that Congress provide a specific line item within the FEMA Nonprofit Security Grant Program of $100 million per fiscal year for HBCUs.

Targeted Threats of Violence at HBCUs

Graph illustrating terroristic threats that HBCUs face

  • 51 of the 101 HBCUs have received terroristic threats.
  • 76 total threats have been levied against HBCUs since January 1, 2022.
  • Daily operations were disrupted each time a threat was levied at an HBCU. These disruptions to daily operations included school closures, school delays, shelter in place orders, and resources being dispatched to secure perimeters and ensure safety of the campus.
  • Daily interruptions have significant negative financial ramifications for the university and the surrounding local communities as the latest HBCU Economic Impact Report from UNCF notes that nationally HBCUs generate 134,090 jobs for their local and regional economies, including 57,868 on-campus jobs and 76,222 off-campus jobs (UNCF). Therefore, each time daily operations at HBCUs were disrupted to respond to a threat, the local economy and thousands of employees suffered (UNCF).

HBCU Students Concerned for Their Safety

  • Students shared their concerns over their safety, and the resources that their institutions have at their disposal for these situations.
  • A student at Xavier University of Louisiana notes: “There is lots to be done in making students feel safe, […] not just at my school but my friends at other HBCUs say the same thing. If a bomb does go off, then what are the next steps? It’s horrible that we have to think about this. I don’t know what we would do. We need guidance that goes beyond shelter-in-place.
  • Another student at Howard University notes that she feels unsafe on campus, “I don’t feel safe, especially with this being the third time this year that Howard has had a bomb threat.”
  • A student from Morgan State University in Baltimore speaks on how the threats have impacted him, “What if it was real and then somebody got hurt by it, I just don’t like that. Some people that actually live on campus were frightened and scared.”

HBCU Leaders Advocate for Additional Resources

  • Several HBCU presidents lobbied for more resources following the incidents as they were left exposed by these unforeseen challenges.
  • Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, former president of Spelman College, said in response to the threats received by her institution: “Reports of nation-wide bomb threats against several HBCU campuses this week are appalling and raise serious concerns about racially targeted hate-based violence in our communities […] we have contacted local and federal officials to request reinforcements of campus security and request that a federal investigation of these threats be undertaken immediately.”
  • Dr. Reynold Verrett, president of Xavier University of Louisiana: “We are doing another review of our protocols because of the environment we’re living in, and we are working with topical experts to look at where we can do additional enhancements.”
  • Thomas K. Hudson, JD, president of Jackson State university (JSU), advocated for more resources in a Congressional hearing: “While we share similarities with other colleges and universities — indeed threats of violence may occur at any number of colleges — the truth is, unlike our counterparts, we have been routinely underfunded for years, which has led to deferred maintenance and deficiencies in our infrastructure. In short, our institutions need capacity-building resources for preparedness, mitigation and prevention.”