By DeAnna Giles and John Little,
Special to the AFRO

Sophomore Eday Koundjou woke up to text alerts on Jan. 31 notifying students at Bowie State University of a campus emergency. 

“It was a little scary. I was hoping it was a false alarm,” Koundjou said of the text alerting the campus community to a bomb threat. He noticed the campus was filled with local police and could hear helicopters from his dorm. 

That same morning, Communications Adjunct Professor Rory Reese was preparing to arrive on campus for a 2 p.m. class, but had to scramble to teach virtually instead.

“This is very disturbing,” Reese said. “You’re threatening our educational system and institutions, and not to mention you’re threatening our children,” Reese said of those who made the threat. “This will not and cannot be tolerated.”

Bowie State’s bomb threat was one of many in a “nationwide series of bomb threats to Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” according to a press release from the FBI. The FBI reported its Joint Terrorism Task Forces are investigating the rash of bomb threats. 

The FBI statement noted the threats are being investigated as “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”

Bowie State campus officials sent out an alert through the campus emergency alert system shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 31 instructing those on campus to shelter in place. This happened after City of Bowie Police Department received a call around 6 a.m. reporting a bomb on campus, according to a Maryland State Police press release. 

The threat brought disruptions and concerns to some students, faculty and staff at Bowie State.

“This is not something that is normal, very much abnormal,” said Cassandra Robinson, director of university relations and marketing.

Freshmen Dontay Akins and Malik Telfer said they were a little scared but not surprised.

Fortunately, there were no reported injuries, no devices found or further threats to the public after a full search of the Bowie campus, according to the Maryland State Police. The campus reopened Monday afternoon and classes remained virtual.

But Reese said he feared these threats were “just the beginning of an escalation.” 

Maryland State Police Public Information Officer Elena Russo said investigators are “certainly on the lookout for any additional threats… as we continue to forge ahead with the investigation.”

A spokesperson for the campus police said they were unable to comment.

Robinson said she was pleased with how students handled the situation. “I think our students did a wonderful job of responding to the directions to shelter in place, and not to try to come to campus if you’re a commuter,” she said.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that would occur. It’s created a kind of disruption for institutions where students are trying to get an education,” Robinson added. 

But some students took it in stride.

“For me, it was a normal day,” said sophomore Kamiah Miller, a Marylander who said proximity to Washington has steeled her to threats to institutions. “So I was like, ‘Nothing’s gonna happen,’” she said. 

The quick pivot to virtual learning did not disturb Miller. Although some students said class should have been canceled altogether for the threat, she was not among them. 

“The only thing that was different is I was hungry, because the student center was closed,” Miller said. 

Despite the range of reactions, Bowie State’s administration encouraged students to prioritize their mental health and utilize campus counseling services in a Twitter post.

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