November 2023 Church & State Magazine - November 2023

Liberty University covered up safety issues on campus, report alleges

 

Officials at Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian powerhouse founded by TV preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. in Lynchburg, Va., failed to keep its campus safe in violation of federal law, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

The department alleges that the school violated the Clery Act, a federal law that requires schools that receive federal financial aid, which Liberty does, to report crime statistics and other information about safety on campus.

The Washington Post reported Oct. 3 that the report “paints a picture of a university that discouraged people from reporting crimes, underreported the claims it received and, meanwhile, marketed its Virginia campus as one of the safest in the country. Liberty failed to warn the campus community about gas leaks, bomb threats and people credibly accused of repeated acts of sexual violence including a senior administrator and an athlete. … Two people familiar with the conclusions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the document, confirmed the findings.”

S. Daniel Carter, a campus safety consultant who reviewed a copy of the initial report at the request of The Post, called it “the single most blistering Clery report I have ever read. Ever. I cannot think of a single other comparable case in the entire 32-year history of the Clery Act.”

The report asserts that the university failed to keep incident reports, warn students of emergencies on campus, advise victims of crimes of their rights and keep proper statistics about crimes.

Over the years, Liberty students have complained that anyone who reports certain types of crime, especially claims of sexual assault, is questioned as if their behavior contributed to the crimes. 

The report cites cases of rape on campus in 2019 and 2020, allegedly committed by a university administrator and an athlete. Although officials at the school found the claims to be credible, they did not alert the student body.

Liberty officials have the right to respond to the report. School officials posted a statement online on Oct. 3 asserting that the school has hired two outside firms to review its compliance with the Clery Act.

“Liberty University remains fully committed to ensuring compliance in this area is met and maintained and understands the purpose of this review process is ultimately in the greater interest of our students, faculty, and staff,” said the school’s president, Dondi E. Costin. “More than that, we recognize the original purpose of the Clery Act is for the health, safety, and overall well-being of our entire University community as we remain steadfast in our mission of Training Champions for Christ.”

Costin took over at Liberty in March of this year after the university’s board forced out former president Jerry Falwell Jr.    

Can't make it to D.C for SRF?

Join us at the Summit for Religious Freedom virtually!

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital for the Summit for Religious Freedom, you can still participate in an impressive virtual program of live, curated sessions from the comfort of your home, local coffee shop or anywhere with an internet connection.

Find out more and register today!