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SOU reacts to recent HBCU bomb threats

Southern Oregon University’s Churchill Hall is shown in this undated file photo. The university issued a statement in response to bomb threats at historically black colleges and universities.
Institutional leadership offered campus resources and the BSU president said he would hold a meeting with his peers to ‘begin the healing process’

Calling the recent bomb threats to historically Black colleges and universities “despicable and cowardly,” Southern Oregon University released a statement of “solidarity,” sharing with the campus community ways they can get mental health support if needed or join in on numerous events commemorating Black History Month.

The internal memo was sent by SOU’s new president, Rick Bailey, as well as the team led by another newcomer, Toya Cooper, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Feb. 1 begins Black History Month in our nation. As we consider the time, and plan for related local and national activities, we are also mindful of the recent bomb threats received at several of our nation’s historically Black colleges and universities,” the statement began. “These threats disrupted services and operations for at least half a dozen HBCUs.”

An HBCU is an accredited institution that was established prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans,” according the U.S. Department of Education’s website, though HBCUs admit all races.

There are just over 100 HBCUs in the United States, with most of them located in the South, but also stretching from Florida to Washington, D.C.

The FBI issued a news release Feb. 2 stating that the agency’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are investigating the bomb threats.

“Although at this time no explosive devices have been found at any of the locations, the FBI takes all threats with the utmost seriousness, and we are committed to thoroughly and aggressively investigating,” the statement said, in part.

In a call to the FBI’s national press office Friday, an official told the Mail Tribune that the statement was the most recent information available on the matter.

SOU’s statement on HBCUs noted how threats of physical harm “can and do take an emotional and psychological toll” and offered campus resources like the student wellness center to help students and staff members.

The university also noted the numerous campus-sponsored events, including a discussion about the film “John Lewis: Good Trouble” and an online lecture series with visiting faculty on ethnic and racial studies.

Blake Jordan, the university’s Black Student Union president, wrote in an email to the Mail Tribune that his “heart goes out” to those impacted by the HBCU threats and acknowledged that there is an “enormous psychological toll” placed on everyone else.

Those feelings didn’t stop him from planning a meeting to discuss the recent news and “facilitate healing.”

“This is painful. I know it took me the first part of this week just to process everything that's happened,” Jordan wrote. “It's important to discuss these topics, though, even though it may be painful. We have to talk about these things so that we can begin the healing process.”

He believes there is something his white classmates can learn about how to treat people of color when they read stories about the threats.

“I think if there is anything to learn … it's that the history that is the focus of this month is still very recent,” Jordan wrote. “While we have made so much progress, there is still a lot of progress to be made if events such as these are to become a thing of the past.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.