HBCU DIGEST: HBCU presidents, police chiefs deserve credit for handling of bomb threat crisis

Dozens of historically Black colleges and universities nationwide have been terrorized by bomb threats since the start of the new year, and more specifically in the last 48 hours. The cost to the campuses and their federal and municipal partners has been extraordinary; countless hours of overtime from police officers and investigators, administrative work time redeployed to crisis management and community response, and a heavy lift in media relations.

The good news is that the infrastructure for schools managing this stress test of attention and resource capacity has proven to be sound. The unheralded heroes of this national crisis have been the HBCU executives who have managed to show their expertise in relationship building and project management for campus assessment.

It’s not easy to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies that may want to play cowboy with Black college campuses and the people who work and learn within their borders. So far, the agencies and the campuses have had great synergy in information exchange and efforts to catch the person or people responsible for this racially-charged spike of domestic terror threats.

Where it would be effortless for agents or officials to leak how campus police departments may be disorganized, understaffed, and out of their league on this kind of crisis, we’ve not heard those stories from any campus regardless of size or location. Thank the HBCU police chiefs and public safety directors for managing it, and presidents and chancellors for prioritizing public safety in the years before bomb threats became a thing.

The HBCU chief of police network has long been quietly effective at sharing best practices to drive down campus crime while increasing confidence in officers and tactics. For years, these safety executives have been a bright spot for HBCUs long plagued by coverage saturation and underreporting of campus incidents at Black colleges that often ignore how these schools are statistically safer than the communities surrounding them.

That collaboration is why students nationally haven’t revolted against the campuses in the midst of this crisis. It would be easy for HBCU students to criticize why some schools close while others don’t, question the presence of police on campus, or use the opportunity to issue a referendum on on-campus policing for violence, sexual assault, or off-campus incidents.

None of that has happened. Nothing has blown up, nothing has been protested, and students are continuing to learn through virtual or in-person modules. Presidents and chancellors have been timely and transparent with their communications, and save for a few leaders using crisis management as a personal brand-building exercise, most leaders are simply trying to alleviate fear and go about business as usual.

It may only be Tuesday, and perhaps we have a long way to go until a maniac is caught or tires himself out of running HBCUs through a ringer of intrusive campus searches and gut-wrenching questions about how safe can Black institutions under constant threat of tragedy. But at least for today, presidents and police chiefs deserve a pat on the back for a collective display of effective crisis management while the world watches.

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