Dear Community of Scholars,
By now, we are all aware that in the early hours of the first day of Black History Month, Philander Smith College was on the receiving end of an anonymous bomb threat that was called into Little Rock 911 Communications. As has been well reported by the news media, several other HBCUs also received similar threats on yesterday, making for a harried start to the month dedicated to celebrating Black history and excellence in this country. With our security measures and protocols in place and the local authorities contacted, we mandated that residential students shelter-in-place, restricted access to the campus, and pivoted to remote operations to begin the day.
I am grateful to the PSC Campus Security Team for being in communication with the members of the Executive Cabinet to enact a plan to safeguard and confirm the security of our campus. To that end, the FBI, Little Rock Fire Department, Little Rock Police Department – which brought out its bomb-detecting canine unit – and Campus Security conducted a sweep of our facilities to ensure that the College was not in any imminent danger. At approximately 10:15 a.m., an all-clear message was issued from law enforcement, and we were able to proceed with our normal operations in the noon hour.
Now that the we have had some time to step back, breathe, and re-evaluate our efforts and protocols, our gratitude is magnified that Philander Smith College was secure while under threat.
As these type threats against HBCUs first surfaced in early January and have continued to persist, please know that the FBI is handling the active investigation into pinpointing those who are responsible. Still, they have advised – as is our normal expectation of our community – that if you observe anything you believe to be suspicious, that it be immediately reported to Campus Security or local authorities. We can take no chances with our safety.
As a result, in the coming days you will notice some increased security measures, particularly as related to the entry-point of our campus. Additionally, we will soon be sharing information about campus-wide safety training opportunities; when these are presented, I am asking for your full cooperation – prioritizing your attendance and engagement. The College’s leadership will keep monitor of the landscape and is committed to quickly addressing changes in our measures as warranted.
Our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities were borne out of adverse conditions. While strides have been made for Black people as a whole, and for our venerable institutions as a collective, we know that hate yet persists. No one should ever be afraid to learn in a classroom or to go work. However, just as our ancestors before us, we will be undeterred in our mission – and will continue to march on until justice is achieved and racism and hate are toppled.
Until such time, we not only appreciate your commitment to the College, but also your adherence to procedures and policies designed for our maximum protection.
Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., Ph.D.
President and CEO