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Allison Joyner

No new developments as HBCU campuses end semester

A series of bomb threats and suspicious packages shook the schools within the AUC earlier this year. 

By Allison Joyner

As the spring semester is coming to a close on most college campuses, investigating who has been executing a series of threats has not. 

From January to March of this year, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), including Clark Atlanta University (CAU), Morehouse College and Spelman College, have experienced a series of threatening correspondence resulting in canceling classes and other events. 

Clark Atlanta University President George T. French, Jr. delivered the keynote remarks to unveil the new Harkness Hall Quadrangle Gate Entrance, with Harkness Hall visible in the background. Credit: Kelly Jordan

“I’ve been in other situations like at my past high school people have called in bomb threats and it wasn’t real, but this is an HBCU there is a chance that someone could be possibly trying to harm [us],” Racine said.

“That moment in that time, those persons who were making those threats, that has a very archaic mindset, was so primitive in the way that they were attempting to threaten us was very uncomfortable,” said Dr. Richard Benson, Associate professor at Spelman College. SaportaReport first spoke to Benson shortly after the second bomb threat Spelman experienced in February.RELATED: Spelman, seven other HBCUs receive bomb threats on same day

When news of the 30-plus HBCUs nationwide, including Albany State University and Fort Valley State University, were receiving these threats on the same day, law enforcement and the media noticed. Politicians including House District five Congresswoman Nakema Williams and Georgia Senator and Morehouse grad Raphel Warnock said they would follow up with the FBI to make sure that the persons involved were brought to justice. 

The FBI identified five individuals involved in the “racially or ethnically motivated” bomb threats targeting the institutions at the beginning of February. Still, the threats continued to happen after the fact and no one has been officially charged. 

RELATED: Georgia HBCUs, others received bomb threats over past two days

“There’s nothing in this case where folks are saying we need to mobilize and create pre-emptive strategies to safeguard these institutions because the general public hasn’t created the urgency, let alone the media themselves — as a matter of fact; it’s not even in the news anymore,” Benson said. 

Like Benson, others wondered why there have not been any updates from law enforcement in addition to why the media has neglected to report this anymore. 

“We’re in May, that was in February. It looked as if something passed and I would argue the only way that it will probably be brought back to bear is another threat to take place, God forbid,” Benson said.

As of late February, the investigation revealed that 57 HBCUs and places of worship were victims of threats to cause harm to students and congregations. 

RELATED: More HBCUs, 'Despicable:' How the Black History Month bomb threats could have been prevented

Racine, who graduated with a degree in film over the weekend, said that the threats did not cause any emotional trauma for her but that may have been the case for other students. 

“At this point, it seems like they’re calling [the threats] just to scare us. We weren’t sure what was going on,” Racine said. 

RELATED: 'Anonymous threat' signals shelter-in-place order for Clark Atlanta, more bomb threats to HBCUs

“I think that for anyone to say there was a general sense of apathy or being desensitized, I think there may have been some young people who thought like this but it created a lot of tension and a lot of it,” Benson said. 

“A trauma response is typically in a situation where, especially if you have those students who already had some pre-existing traumas, could be a large impact on individuals who already struggle with past traumatic experiences,” said Jennifer Williams, licensed professional counselor and owner of Solutions Counseling and Consultant Services. 

“I could see how it could- let’s say a freshman- that just got here and now they’re hearing about all these threats against the campus, that could be a cause for concern,” Racine said. 

Williams mentioned that this semester’s threats could deter students from moving back on campus for the fall semester out of fear of something happening.

Image from Spelman College's 2019 graduation commencement.
Credit: Spelman College

“And then with them being exposed to and seeing everything that’s going on in the world; add to that hesitancy whether or not something will happen and move forward with their attempts. I’m sure that it is always in the back of their heads that those students can be impacted one way or another,” Williams said. 

On the day before FBI Executive Assistant Director Ryan Young stated to the House Oversight and Reform Committee in March that houses of worship and HBCUs “require robust protection efforts, which start with effective partnerships,” Vice President and HBCU graduate, Kamala Harris announced grant funding from the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program to give immediate need to institutions for mental health resources and enhanced security. 

RELATED: White House announces grants for HBCUs affected by bomb, life-threatening threats

“[Do I] think the [Spelman] administration did the best they could? No, I don’t but do I feel that given the circumstances and seeing how we had no precedent that they handled it with the best resources in real-time that could have been handled? So I think they did the best they could with what they had,” Benson said.

“I felt like if [CAU] were trying to protect us, they would have bumped up the security a little more because aside from the main promenade where everyone else was susceptible to anything happening to them,” Racine said. 

Morehouse David Thomas

David Thomas meets with Morehouse students (image provided by Morehouse College)

Williams feels that the schools need to discuss with the students how the threats impacted them before they move back into the residence halls in August.  

“I do have confidence that based on what we experienced a few months ago, we’ll be able to respond a hell of a lot better,” Benson said. 

SaportaReport reached out to the FBI for additional updates on the investigation and had nothing. However, we will keep you up-to-date on the situation and update this story when more information is available. 



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