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HBCUs more vulnerable to future attacks after bomb threats, Dillard president tells Congress

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Dillard University
Dillard University president Walter Kimbrough at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Jan. 20, 2020.

Waves of bomb threats directed at historically Black colleges and universities could leave schools more vulnerable to future attacks, Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said at a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday.

The hearing focused on hate crime prevention and included testimony from several experts, as well as the Texas rabbi held hostage at a synagogue in January.

Kimbrough, who also serves as the president chair of the United Negro College Fund, was the only HBCU leader present.

In his testimony, Kimbrough used the story of the “boy who cried wolf” to explain why schools are more vulnerable now than they were two months ago.

“After repeated cries for help when there was no wolf, the village stops responding. Then the wolf shows up and eats the sheep,” Kimbrough said. “Over the past few weeks, I have begun to wonder what happens if the wolf cries wolf.”

He said the unprecedented number of bomb threats has caused some cities to change the way they respond, in some cases eliminating full bomb sweeps.

“Some campuses have not benefited from full sweeps and are left to determine an all clear using their campus police and facilities teams,” he said. “We're at a point where there may be a wolf on campus and it is now up to the boy to find it.”

Nearly 60 HBCUs, including Dillard, have received bombs threats since the start of the year, all later proven to be false alarms.

The FBI previously said they had identified six persons of interest described as “tech savvy” juveniles, but no one has been arrested yet.

Kimbrough called on all levels of government to develop strong response plans to future bomb threats and steer more resources toward identifying and arresting the individuals responsible for recent threats against HBCUs.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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