A preliminary report from the U.S. Department of Education found Liberty University in central Virginia allegedly violated federal law for years, failing to keep its campus residents safe by not warning the community about potential threats.
The Lynchburg-based university, founded in 1971 by the late Jerry Falwell Sr., also violated the regulations put in place by the Clery Compliance Act, according to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the federal report.
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From 2016 to 2022, Liberty failed to alert its campus community members about bomb threats, gas leaks, and people accused of sexual violence. Perhaps most damning, however, is the allegation officials at the Christian institution erased evidence of wrongdoing after investigations began.
While news of the investigations of Liberty have been known for some time, the revelations about university officials purportedly destroying evidence are new.
The federally enacted Clery Act requires universities to report crimes that occur on their campuses. But the new report on Liberty — put together in May of this year — includes details suggesting university authorities not only failed to comply with the Clery Act but attempted to hide their noncompliance.
Investigators with the Department of Education discovered “senior officials in HR sought the assistance of IT staff to wipe certain computer hard drives on April 26, 2022, the very week that the review team first visited the campus.”
Federal authorities gleaned that information during interviews with a former university dean and an IT employee. Those conversations led investigators to report the destruction of evidence came just hours after government officials spoke with Liberty’s executive vice president of human resources about “the importance of maintaining records.”
“It does not appear that any institution-wide record retention program has ever existed at Liberty with respect to its campus security operations, although some individual officers did establish their own guidelines for their operations,” the report states. “Similarly, the university has been unable to provide the basic documentation to substantiate the accuracy and completeness of the university’s campus crime statistics.”
The federal report also cites an alleged rape committed by an unnamed former Liberty president. That alleged crime was not entered into the daily crime log.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the embattled former president of Liberty, said in a statement he was never informed during his tenure at the university of a rape allegation against a former president.
“That was the first I’d heard of it,” he told WSET-TV. “I have no idea what that’s about. It’s definitely not me. I never heard any allegations like that about anybody. In fact, I didn’t hear any allegations that Liberty wasn’t compliant with the Clery Act or not reporting crimes properly until after I left Liberty.”
The findings from the Department of Education could lead to significant consequences against Liberty if they are consistent in the final report from the federal agency.
Liberty, for its part, said in a statement to The Post that it has improved its process for complying with federal government requirements. The university has also responded to the initial report by “detailing significant errors, misstatements, and unsupported conclusions in the Department’s preliminary findings.”
“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 newly minted Liberty President Dondi 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.”
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