By Olafimihan Oshin
Leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) urged lawmakers on Thursday to help protect their campuses following a series of bomb threats.
During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Thursday, several HBCU student leaders told lawmakers that their student body had to attend counseling sessions and mental health days to cope with the recent threats.
“Our resilience stands as a testament to the fact that no threat, real or fictitious … could ever stand against our legacy, our community and our commitment to supporting each other,” said Howard University Student Association president Kylie Burke at the meeting.
Federal authorities recorded numerous bomb threats against HBCU institutions across the country last month, a trend the White House called “disturbing” at the time.
Emmanuel Ukot, the Xavier University student association president, urged lawmakers and federal authorities to provide increased funds for HBCU institutions to improve safety on their campuses.
“Racially charged acts like the bomb threats are not only an attack to our campus, but they are an attack on the ideals and values of HBCUs and their collective mission,” Ukot told lawmakers.
At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson told lawmakers that previous attacks on universities and schools mean the threats must be taken seriously.
“We have to remain vigilant,” Hudson said at the hearing. “We must always be proactive.”
The Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence offers grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 per university to improve safety and mental health resources at schools.
The White House also announced Wednesday that it will send grants to enhance safety measures at HBCUs that experienced bomb threats.
“Every American should be able to learn, work, worship and gather without fear,” Vice President Harris, a graduate of Howard University, said in a statement. “It is our duty to do everything we can to protect all our communities. A harm against any one of our communities is a harm against all of us.”
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in his opening statement Wednesday that the country’s response to the threats “must be swift and serious.”
“Racially motivated threats and violence against Black churches and schools are attacks on these institutions, but also on our American way of life,” he said.
This article originally appeared on thehill.com.