Posted on August 22, 2022

‘It’s Unfathomable’: No Arrests Made 6 Months After HBCU Bomb Threats

Bianca Quilantan, Politico, August 18, 2022

Leaders of historically Black colleges want answers.

Their institutions have been targeted since the start of the year. Eight HBCUs received bomb threats on Jan. 4, each from callers who used racial slurs. On Jan. 31, at least seven schools received similar calls. And on Feb. 1, the start of Black history month, 18 schools were called with campus bomb threats — and more threats followed throughout the month. In total, more than a third of all HBCUs were targeted this year.

The Biden administration launched an FBI investigation into the February threats, labeling the incidents “hate crimes” and “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism.”

Six months later, there have been no arrests. No suspects have been named, there have been no public statements about what triggered the threats and no clarity given as to whether the incidents were linked.

“I’m beyond frustrated,” said Carmen Walters, president of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, at a gathering of HBCU presidents at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in D.C. in August. “I’m very angry that no one has been brought to justice, but there’s been no conversation about the investigation at all.”

To the school leaders, it seems as though the incidents that roiled their campuses have been forgotten. They say the threats that triggered lockdowns and evacuations, and shuttered classrooms, placed a financial burden on their institutions that they weren’t expecting as they implemented hardened security measures. They want more money for safety upgrades — and they want to see those responsible brought to justice.

The FBI said no explosive devices were found, but HBCU leaders say not having a public arrest has created an uneasy atmosphere at their schools. The vitriolic calls, they say, took an intense toll on the mental health of students and their families, who were also under duress from the pandemic.

The bomb threats took away their sense of security on a campus “that’s always been a safe haven for them,” said Dwaun Warmack, president of Claflin University in South Carolina. The calls, which are all recorded, he said were full of “hate” and “disgust” for their institutions and the students they serve.


The FBI said in a statement that the bureau is working with 34 FBI field offices and still “investigating a series of bomb threats targeting community colleges, colleges and universities across the country.”


HBCU advocacy groups have been urging Congress and the Education Department since February to shore up funding for the 100-plus institutions to bolster public safety.

The Biden administration took some action in March by allowing HBCUs to apply for emergency grants after the bomb threats. The grants announced by Vice President Kamala Harris, an HBCU graduate, range from $50,000 to $150,000 per school and come from the Project School Emergency Response to Violence fund.

They are intended to help schools recover from a violent or traumatic event, and can be used to enhance campus public safety and mental health support for students.

“We will continue to work closely with our federal partners to make sure HBCU leaders have access to all available federal resources to respond to threats of violence, strengthen campus security and provide students with the safe and nurturing learning environments that have defined HBCUs,” an Education Department spokesperson said.

HBCU leaders said they were grateful for the administration’s support but the process to get aid is cumbersome.

“Why do we have to apply for a grant when you know I had a bomb threat? You know I had all these expenses,” Walters said. “You’re telling me, ‘OK, you need to reinforce your buildings. You need to get a new sound system, get a new alarm system, do all these things’ — and there are no dollars to do that.”


HBCU leaders also took issue with an assessment from the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office that they were required to fill out. The Education Department said it uses the form to examine actions taken by the school to keep the campus safe.

The assessment, the college presidents said, was onerous and asked about the Clery Act and campus security systems.

“The most disappointing piece for me was the three-to-five page assessment that they asked for — like we did something to deserve a bomb threat,” Warmack said. “Like it was our fault that we received a bomb threat. So I didn’t fill it out.”