Black History Month began in the most horrific manner – the shooting of a campus police officer and a campus security officer while protecting their community at Bridgewater College in Virginia. This followed a morning of new bomb threats against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) including two of our Consortium institutions, Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia. These newest threats are stark reminders of how very far we still have to go to address systemic racism.
The Presidents, faculty, staff, and students of our member institutions across the region stand together in sending our sympathies to the Bridgewater College community, and especially to the family and loved ones of the officers. May their memories be for a blessing.
We must not take lightly such a horrific act of violence, or the threats of violence targeting our HBCUs. It is more important than ever that our schools, colleges, and universities be places of free and open discourse where history can be taught and understood. Discussions that make us uncomfortable are critical to increasing perspective and, we can hope, to increase empathy for one another. Challenging ourselves to unearth our biases, both explicit and implicit, is critical to strengthening our democracy and our continuing common commitment to seek that more perfect Union.
We are proud that in addition to our HBCUs, our region includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Hispanic Serving institutions, the first university in the world dedicated to serving the deaf and hard of hearing community, and some of the world’s greatest community colleges. Our public, private, and federal universities stand with them today and every day. In the face of violence and threats we recommit ourselves to mutual support for access to education, and to the safety of our community members.
Andrew Flagel, PhD
President & CEO
Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
Roberta J. Cordano
President, Gallaudet University
Chair, Board of Trustees
Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
The following statements were issued by leaders of regional institutions of higher education, including our members and the president of Bridgewater College:
Dear Howard University Community,
In the early hours of this morning, our University received yet another bomb threat, the third in less than a month to be levied against us and several of our fellow historically Black colleges and universities. Our first and immediate response was, of course, to verify the credibility of the threat and ensure that no harm would befall our community. But our subsequent response, the one we make after the initial fear of danger has subsided, is equally significant.
As we mark the beginning of Black History Month, we must remember what the Black community has endured, overcome and achieved despite the threats against us and the hate we have received. Now is the time for us to embody the resilience and persistence of our ancestors. We must move forward with our missions, undaunted by the threats of bad actors and strengthened by the examples of excellence set by those who came before us.
It is critical that we do not allow these harassments to distract or deter us from the purpose that has brought each of us to Howard University. The Black community is no stranger to these sorts of threats, both real and fabricated. The institutions dedicated to the education of people of color have always been a source of fear and a target of violence for those who wish to undermine the pursuit of justice and enshrine the unequal status quo in our society. We have never before enabled, and we will not now begin to allow tactics of intimidation to affect how we educate our students at Howard. External pressure must not be permitted to dictate what, why and how we teach our students. On the contrary, threats of this nature only reinforce the vital mission of our hallowed and historic University and the motivation that fuels us to study, to work, to teach and to learn.
We know that situations like these heighten our concern for the wellbeing of ourselves and our peers, colleagues, family and friends. But rest assured that every conceivable measure is being taken to protect, defend and secure our campus community. As our law enforcement and public safety officers are busy doing their important jobs, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to carry on doing ours. We each have a role to play to ensure that Howard continues to serve as a beacon for social justice and equal rights. So long as we remain united, stay focused on our goals and never allow intimidation to arrest our forward momentum, nothing will stop us from telling the truth, serving our communities and changing the world.
Thank you all for your patience and perseverance during this time. Let us move forward together to counteract the malevolent forces in our society and inspire goodness to triumph.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, MD, MBA
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery
Dear Marymount Community,
Today, our flags at the North Glebe Road entrance to Main Campus are at half-staff in honor of the campus police officer and campus security officer who were both killed while on duty yesterday at Bridgewater College as they responded to an active shooter situation. This heartbreaking event was caused by a single perpetrator, and the suspect is now in custody. I have reached out to Bridgewater’s President, expressing that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two fallen officers as well as the entire Bridgewater College community during this difficult time.
That tragic event followed bomb threats that have been made against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country, including in the D.C. area at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia. While we are fortunate at Marymount to have not encountered situations in recent days like these other institutions have, I know how moments like these can be stressful for all. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to remind our student body that Student Counseling Services is available for support. For employees, we offer free, confidential counseling services through our Employee Assistance Program as well as professional counseling and therapy services for employees covered by our CareFirst health care plan.
I want our campus community to rest assured that Marymount’s threat assessment team and Office of Campus Safety and Emergency Management are continuously monitoring threats that are made in the region, and we’re in constant communication with local, state and federal agencies before and during emergency situations. We also have procedures and policies in place to respond to a variety of emergencies, from active shooter situations and bomb threats to fires and power outages. We plan to increase awareness and training opportunities to prepare for potential situations like these in the near future.
Additionally, I want to encourage you to download LiveSafe if you haven’t already. This app allows you to receive emergency alerts and non-emergency notifications from the University, and provides a two-way chat function for reporting suspicious activity to Campus Safety. We also have an anonymous tip line that can be utilized as well.
Here at Marymount, we are wholeheartedly committed to providing our Saints a safe environment to live, learn and work, and your well-being is always our first priority. Please take care of yourselves, and be safe.
Irma Becerra, PhD
NOVA Stands with Bridgewater College and HBCUs Nationally
NOVA joins in mourning the loss of Bridgewater College Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson and decrying the threats to HBCUs across the country, including Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Howard University, Morgan State University and University of the District of Columbia.
Officers Painter and Jefferson died while protecting the Bridgewater College community from a senseless act of violence that shattered the campus’s sense of peace and safety. The officers’ heroism and sacrifice prevented the unimaginable. We send our deepest condolences to their families, whose lives are forever changed because officers Painter and Jefferson nobly put service above self, and to the Bridgewater College students, faculty and staff as they grieve this horrible loss. Our hearts are with them.
NOVA stands with the Bridgewater College community.
The nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have experienced anonymous threats of violence that brought fear and disruption to their campuses. The legacy of scholarship and excellence that is at the heart of these institutions should be nurtured and protected, not derailed by cowardly, racist attacks. We know the strength of these institutions will not be moved.
NOVA stands with the students, faculty and staff at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Anne M. Kress, PhD
Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA)
Today our campus community experienced unspeakable tragedy. Two members of the Bridgewater College family were senselessly and violently taken from us. The sadness is palpable. Words are not adequate, not nearly so, to express the grief, sadness, fear and—justifiably—the anger we all feel.
Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson were shot and killed on campus while protecting us. These officers were close friends, known to many of us as the “dynamic duo.” John was J.J.’s best man in his wedding this year. They were beloved by students, faculty and staff. I hurt for their families and loved ones, as I know we all do.
This is a sad and dark day for Bridgewater College. I know we all have so many questions and not many answers. One thing I do know, though, is that we will rally around one another and support each other as we move forward from this day. We are all victims, though some much more so than others, and it will be important that we each seek to find comfort and support in the ways most meaningful for us.
We will be sharing more information very soon on grief counseling and other forms of support.
I pray for that peace which passes all understanding for John and J.J.’s families and for all of us. Please take care of yourself and each other.
David W. Bushman, PhD