JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education announced Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grants to two HBCUs following the recent spate of bomb threats.
Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, were awarded more than $420,000 and $80,000 in Project SERV grants respectively.
“All of us have been lobbying for support around the bomb threats, The first prong is absolutely mental health for our students in that we can hire two trauma specialists to be on campus to help them. The College has had a cyber attack, COVID, and to add to that a bomb threat, that’s a lot to deal with as a college student. Having this trauma specialist on campus, professionals, and working with our students is going to be extremely beneficial, ” explained Carmen Walters, President of Tougaloo College.
These universities will use the funds to support student trauma recovery related to these threats by hiring full-time equivalent Trauma Specialists/Counselors, increasing full-time Security Officer coverage, and offering additional mental health support.
“We can hire police officers, additional security officers, and we don’t know where the threat is coming from so we need more hands on deck. We were required to walk through with the police and our maintenance department. We are small we don’t have a large force, so this will help us to hire a few more eyes to be on campus. We need technology dollars, we don’t want the students using keys for the dorm rooms, we want the swipe technology. IDs are already on the cellphones on our app. We want to be able to have them scan in, so we can know how many are in the building right away and are able to run a report. If we need that kind of technology we will be looking for more grants to do things of that nature. This gets us right in the ballpark of safety and mental health which we feel will be a great place for us,” said Walters.
The department awarded Southern University Law Center a $133,000 Project SERV grant last month and expects additional grants to be awarded in the coming weeks.
“As Secretary of Education, I want to make it abundantly clear that the Biden-Harris Administration will not tolerate bomb threats or any efforts to terrorize students of color and everyone who lives, works, and studies at our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The bomb threats made against HBCUs earlier this year not only strained institutions’ resources by prompting costly campus lockdowns, class cancellations, and law enforcement activities, but shattered students’ sense of safety and heightened anxiety throughout these campus communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
“Every president of every college, whether your a historically black college, predominately white, Hispanic serving, every president’s focus is safety first for all people on campus. I can say that times two at Tougaloo. We have a gate, you can’t just roll up and visit somebody, you have to stop at the gate and call. So, safety is a priority for us and we want our students to know that. We want our students to know attacks will come but we are able to withstand them because we have put the right types of programs and tools in place to keep our institution strong and to keep our students safe, so we feel pretty good about where we are right now,” stated Walters.
Tougaloo College and Fayetteville State University are among the more than 50 HBCUs and Historically Black Institutions across the country that has experienced racially motivated bomb threats this year. Project SERV provides short-term funding for local educational agencies and institutions of higher education that have experienced a violent or traumatic incident to assist in restoring a safe environment conducive to learning.