Safety on HBCU campuses, which are woefully underfunded, has been a long-standing concern for administrators and elected officials.
That concern escalated over the last few years due to a string of bomb threats, rising hate-fueled violence, and, most recently, shootings on campuses of these historic institutions of higher learning.
Last week, a shooting occurred on the campus of Morgan State University in Maryland during homecoming week. Five people were injured, and no arrest has been made. A week prior, a shooting at a student housing complex at Tuskegee University in Alabama left four injured.
On Saturday night, a shooting at Bowie State University, another HBCU campus in Maryland, left two people hospitalized. Similar to the Morgan State incident, the shooting occurred during Bowie State’s homecoming festivities.
Leaders in Congress and education are now reigniting calls for more security for HBCUs through increased funding to protect against gun-related incidents and other types of violence, including preventive measures.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., believes there needs to be “a safety net” for HBCUs. The founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus told theGrio she plans to work on efforts on Capitol Hill to secure increased funding for security on campuses.
Congresswoman Adams called for establishing an alert system to make students aware of emergency events like what happened at Morgan State, Bowie, and Tuskegee.
As for other ideas on how to keep HBCUs more secure, she told theGrio, “I am sure the universities have some idea about what they need.”
Adams said she has talked to FBI officials about her security concerns for HBCU campuses.
News reports indicated many Morgan State students on lockdown after the shooting were unaware of what happened. After seeing national headlines, some were informed by loved ones who called them frantically.
Glenda Glover, president of Tennessee State University and vice chair of the White House Board of Advisors on HBCUs, told theGrio this moment “shows how important infrastructure funding is needed on HBCU campuses — that includes funding for security.”
Glover said such funding would be used for campus police protection, campus security guards, and local law enforcement.
The outgoing university president also lamented about such shootings happening during one of the most sacred times at an HBCU.
“Homecoming is a time to celebrate and not for criminal aspects to manifest,” said Glover.
When asked about calls for increased security funding for HBCUs during a press briefing last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre told theGrio, “I haven’t seen that request, so I can’t speak to that directly.”
However, the Biden spokesperson acknowledged the newly created White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention was established to work on solutions to incidents like what occurred at Morgan State.
Jean-Pierre added, “This is a president that has given more than any other president as it relates to HBCUs — more than $7 billion. You see his commitment to HBCUs.”
On the issue of security, those familiar with homecoming time at Morgan State say Maryland State Police typically patrol the campus. According to sources, homecoming police presence typically is low but usually ramps up by the end of the week of culminating events.
Part of the problem for HBCUs, which are epicenters of culture and pride for Black communities, is that their campuses are often open to all. Amid incidents of violence, leaders have mulled over ways to keep dangerous elements out.
But the overall issue of rising crime that most recently extended to Morgan State has Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott reiterating this is more of an issue about guns.
“If it could happen that close to the police, then the issue is not police,” Scott told theGrio. “This was a basic human conflict that led to a gunfight.”
Scott said the Morgan State incident occurred about “100 feet” away from a Baltimore City Police precinct.
In the aftermath of last week’s shooting, Morgan State canceled its homecoming activities. Sources close to the HBCU told theGrio the university did not want to take the risk of another incident occurring on the campus, where shootings have marred past homecomings in recent years.
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