Tougaloo College is set to receive $420,000 from the federal government to support campus security and the mental health of students and faculty in response to this year’s nationwide bomb threats targeting HBCUs.
Mississippi Today reports that the funding will come from a U.S. Department of Education initiative called Project SERV, or “School Emergency Response to Violence,” which provides short-term support to educational entities that have experienced a traumatic event.
Tougaloo is receiving much more than the original amount promised by the department when applications opened in March. Originally, it said grants would range from $50,000 to $150,000, but Tougaloo will receive nearly half a million dollars for a year’s worth of additional staff.
Schenika Harrison, a special projects director who applied for the grant, said the funds will cover two trauma therapists to help counsel students whose mental health was affected by the threats, three security officers to help patrol the 500 wooded acres of campus, and about 20 adjuncts to make it easier for faculty to take mental health days.
Carmen Walters, Tougaloo’s president many people on campus still struggle with “the shock and trauma of dealing with bomb threats at 4 o’clock in the morning, being awaken out of your sleep, not being able to walk the buildings freely and having everyone say, ‘look for any packages that look unfamiliar.’”
“That’s a lot of trauma for our kids that they shouldn’t have to deal with,” she added.
So far, Tougaloo is the only HBCU in Mississippi that has received the funding. According to Mississippi Today, Jackson State is still working on its application with the goal of using the funds to create an “emergency central hub” on campus.
Despite more than one-third of the country’s 101 HBCUs receiving bomb threats earlier this year, the FBI has yet to announce any arrests.
In February the FBI identified six “tech savvy” juveniles as persons of interests.
POLITICO reported that the FBI told the House Oversight Committee in March no arrests have been made due to “‘challenges with attribution’ because ‘some of [the threats] come from encrypted platforms.’”
According to Mississippi Today, Walters said that despite the Department of Education providing “phenomenal” support to HBCUs this year, she was frustrated with the grant application process for Project SERV because it seemed needlessly competitive.
“When you say, ‘a grant process,’ it makes me feel that it’s competitive, that I’m competing against my colleagues,” she said.
Tougaloo is also in the process of applying for grants to replace keyhole locks in the campus dorms with scan-and-swipe technology.