Federal grants to improve safety and mental health initiatives will be awarded to historically black colleges and universities that have recently received bomb threats.
Federal grants to strengthen safety and mental health initiatives will be awarded to historically black colleges and universities that have recently received bomb threats, Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday.
More than a third of HBCUs nationwide have received bomb threats in the past three months; they are now eligible to receive awards from the School Violence Crisis Response Project (SERV project) from the Ministry of Education, which generally vary between $50,000 and $150,000.
“As you can imagine, with the threats we’ve received, now two in one semester, it has caused additional anxiety among our students,” said Aminta H. Breaux, president of Bowie State University. “We’ve improved our mental health counseling to help support students, but more is needed.”
The stress felt by students, faculty and staff related to the pandemic and social injustice is causing demands for mental health support at Bowie State to begin to exceed capacity. Breaux stressed that more advisers need to be hired.
The grant money spent on improving safety and security, emergency management planning and response will be used, in part, to improve physical infrastructure and surveillance cameras on the campus.
“We already have cameras, but that’s another era. And these are different circumstances. We have a heightened sense … to protect the campus and in different ways,” she said.
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It takes more than one-time grants.
Breaux asks legislators at all levels to understand what she characterizes as the new higher education landscape.
“And above all, especially for our historically black colleges and universities, where we have seen the rise of social injustice, concerns and threats,” Breaux said.
Last week, the US Senate passed a bipartisan resolution reaffirm the federal government’s duty to protect college students, faculty and staff from acts of violence. Co-sponsors of the measure included Maryland Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.
“The Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program can provide immediate mental health assistance to students and staff following these tragic events. I applaud the Vice President’s announcement that our Maryland HBCUs that have faced these threats will now be eligible for funding under this program,” Cardin told OMCP in a statement.
“In addition to addressing the mental health needs of students, the Consolidated Credits Act of 2022 included language that I fought for to ensure that would allow HBCUs to use some of their COVID-19 recovery Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) on infrastructure needs, including security-related infrastructure improvements,” he said.
“I want to thank at this time, our own Congressman Steny Hoyer, who contacted me immediately after the bomb threats and asked me again what can he do? What can our legislators do? And he took the floor last week to advocate for solidarity, to support our HBCUs,” Breaux said.
Federal resources from several agencies and departments are available to help HBCU with long term improvements.
“As President (Joe) Biden indicated in Executive Order 14041 – which reinstated the White House initiative on HBCUs – HBCUs have a proud history and a legacy of achievement. This legacy continues with more than 100 HBCUs, located in 19 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, serving nearly 300,000 students annually,” according to a statement from the White House. “These legendary institutions have excelled in the face of discrimination, and their strength and beliefs will not be undermined by these violent bomb threats.”
“HBCUs are part of the fabric of our history in this country,” Breaux said. “We provide a vital economic benefit to our communities through our graduates who return to their communities and give back in many ways. They are part of the pipeline to the workforce. We respond to the diversity, equity and inclusion needs of the workforce. So we need to support security, just basic security for our campuses and our youth. »