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A historically Black college (HBCU) in South Carolina is taking steps to beef up its campus security weeks after a shooting in an academic building left a student facing charges of attempted murder.

South Carolina State University is making a significant investment in keeping its community safe by adding a gun-sniffing dog to the ranks of its campus security team.

MORE: Op-Ed: Urgent Measures Are Needed To Protect HBCUs

The announcement comes after Global K9 Protection Group, the company providing the dog, put on a demonstration on campus to show the capabilities of a dog that can detect firearms via their vapors. The demonstration included a dog quickly indicating the presence of guns, including one that was placed on a fire hydrant.

South Carolina State University gets gun-sniffing dog

An ammunition clip used for gun-sniffing dog demonstration at SC State University. | Source: Keith Gilliard/SC State University Relations & Marketing

The dog used in the demonstration is not the one that will ultimately be matched with South Carolina State.

School President Alexander Conyers said once the dog is selected, there will be a contest on campus to name the canine.

Conyers also suggested that the decision to add the gun-sniffing dog was in the works well before a student opened fire in Hodge Hall earlier this month.

“This has been in the making almost nine months since I began evaluating several companies and first made contact with Global K9 Protection Group,” Conyers said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “We just want to ensure that the student, faculty and staff on this campus are just as protected as any other campus or any other state agency.”

South Carolina State University gets gun-sniffing dog

SC State University President (center) discusses the capabilities of a gun-sniffing dog with local news media. He is flanked at left by Dr. Gerald Smalls, vice president for finance and administration, and at right by Dr. Frederick Evans, provost and vice president for academic affairs. | Source: Keith Gilliard/SC State University Relations & Marketing

While acknowledging other universities that have added gun-sniffing dogs, Conyers suggested South Carolina State could help make it a trend among Black colleges looking to ramp up their security efforts.

“Other universities in South Carolina and across the country already are using these capabilities,” Conyers said. “We may be the first HBCU in the country to employ this technology, so we are on the forefront, but I feel sure we won’t be the last.”

The gun-sniffing dog doesn’t come for cheap, though.

WISTV reported that South Carolina State can expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 for the dog’s services.

South Carolina State University gets gun-sniffing dog

Dakota, a gun-sniffing black labrador from Global K9 Protection Group, leads handler Daniel McAffee to SC State Provost Frederick Evans after detecting the vapor wake from a firearms test object Evans was holding. Dakota was able to pick Evans out of the crowd. | Source: Keith Gilliard/SC State University Relations & Marketing

South Carolina campus shooting

The announcement to add the gun-sniffing dog came weeks after police charged South Carolina State student Rolando J. Ifill Jr., 19, with assault/attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime for allegedly shooting a gun at another student following a physical altercation between the two on Feb. 6.

Several shots were reportedly fired, resulting in nearby Claflin University — also an HBCU — being placed on lockdown.

Police say Ifill was subsequently found with a 9mm gun before being released on a $50,000 bond.

Gun violence on HBCU campuses

The addition of the bomb-sniffing dog in South Carolina comes months after a spate of gun violence on HBCU campuses in October as homecoming festivities were happening.

That includes Morgan State University in Baltimore, where at least five people were shot near a dormitory building.

About a month before that, a white supremacist drove onto the campus of Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida, and was recorded by students wearing tactical gear before campus security removed him from school property on Aug. 26. After leaving, Ryan Palmeter opened fire at a nearby Dollar General store and killed three Black people before turning the gun on himself.

Around that same time, Howard University responded to a vicious melee that broke out near its residence halls. As a result, Howard still said it planned to install more than 1,000 cameras across campus, install card readers to control access to certain campus buildings, bolster its security with an armed officer stationed in front of residence buildings and supply students with an emergency device they can use to call for help.

HBCU security efforts

In 2022, dozens of HBCUs were the targets of bomb threats.

Lodriguez V. Murray, UNCF’s senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, previously said that Congress hasn’t matched the urgency shown by the situation at hand.

“All year long, we have asked Congress to protect HBCUs, and now is the time to pass the Homeland Security appropriations bill with language that directs the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to provide $100 million for HBCUs (annually) via the non-profit grants’ security program,” Murray said in a statement last summer. “This program must administer the funds directly to HBCUs, not by the state governments. This will help HBCUs to be protected against threats by increasing security, developing plans on how to respond beyond simply calling the police, heighten the use of technology to monitor campus entry points, and make our environments the safe haven for learning they should be for the sake—and mental health and security—of our students.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Project SERV (Project School Emergency Response to Violence) initiative awarded more than $1 million in grants to HBCUs that were targeted and disrupted by racist bomb threats last year, the federal agency has said. Project SERV describes itself as specifically working to help institutions of higher learning affected by violent threats.

And while generous, those grants were split between four HBCUs, none of which included Edward Waters. In addition to using the grants for security, the four schools – Claflin University ($440,000), Delaware State University ($217,000), Howard University ($203,000) and Texas Southern University ($191,962) – all said they intended to use the funds to bolster wellness and mental health services needed following the bomb threats, not security.

Biden’s Administration in 2022 made a $2.7 billion investment in HBCUs across the country from the American Rescue Plan.

Statistics also show that federal funding of HBCUs has increased every year under Biden’s presidency.

But a study from last year found that HBCUs receive 178 times less foundation funding than Ivy League schools – $5.5 billion to $45 million in 2019, when the most recent statistics were available.

“The inequities are embedded and sanctioned by state governments, the federal government and by private industry,” N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, told Forbes. “They say to the white schools, you can drive a Bentley, but the Black schools are told they can’t get a car at all.”


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