Liberty University reportedly failed to keep its campus safe and repeatedly violated federal law specifying how to do so for years, according to a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) preliminary report obtained by the Washington Post.
The report centers on a program review of the school’s Clery Act compliance, according to the Correo. It reportedly shows the university underreported campus crime and deterred people from reporting crimes in the first place. That’s even as Liberty claims to be “one of the safest campuses in the state — and in the nation.”
Liberty University (LU) can appeal and dispute the findings before the DOE finalizes its program review.
Under the Clery Act, colleges that participate in federal student aid programs must disclose certain information about crime and campus safety. A program review like this can result in fines or even compromise a school’s eligibility for financial aid.
It’s unclear how much Liberty could be fined as a result of the program review. But hundreds of millions of dollars in student aid may be at stake: Liberty received $874 million in 2020-2021, the Post reported today.
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The draft Program Review Report reportedly found that between 2016 and 2022, Liberty failed to warn those on campus about people credibly accused of repeated sexual violence, including a senior administrator and an athlete.
The report also alleges Liberty officials wiped multiple hard drives in the human resources department after the government inquiry began, according to the Post.
Liberty is one of the nation’s most influential Christian universities. It informes more than 15,000 students on its Lynchburg, Va., campus — among more than 130,000 enrolled worldwide. But it has also faced multiple lawsuits over its handling of sexual assaults, and was previously fined $120,000 for violating the Clery Act.
en un declaración published today, Liberty University President Dondi Costin said the school “has established a strong, sustainable, and legally compliant Clery Act program that prioritizes compliance, transparency, and the safety and security of our entire campus without exception.”
The statement also alleged the DOE’s draft report contained “significant errors, misstatements, and unsupported conclusions,” which it detailed in a supplemental response to the DOE’s report in September.
Report: Liberty did not adequately disclose, warn campus of sexual assaults
The preliminary report found the school did not adequately document reports about numerous sexual assaults, according to the Washington Post.
Among other failings, the school did not include a Liberty University Police Department report regarding “an alleged rape that was committed by a former Liberty President” in its daily crime log, the Post reported. The findings reportedly did not specify which former president or whether the school investigated. Instead, it focused on whether the report was logged as required by the Clery Act.
Only two former Liberty presidents were alive when the police report was made. One of them, Jerry Falwell Jr., told the Post it was “absolutely” not about him. The other former president, John Borek, reportedly did not respond when the Post tried to ask him about it. Borek is on Liberty’s junta directiva.
The report also lists a timeline of alleged sexual misconduct by a senior administrator at Liberty, the Post reported. Those allegations closely resemble accusations against the school’s current executive director of student health and wellness that were included in a class-action lawsuit blaming Liberty for “enabling on-campus rapes.” Liberty settled that lawsuit last year.
While the report finds that top officials knew about the administrator’s alleged misconduct, no campus warnings were ever issued, the Post reported.
The 74-page report found other instances of the university allegedly failing to warn those on campus about alleged sexual perpetrators, according to the Post. And people who reported incidents at Liberty “were frequently questioned about their own conduct that may have allegedly contributed,” the Post reported. Questions reportedly probed complainants’ and witnesses’ sexual history, sexual orientation, alcohol use and attire.
The accounts in the report mirror a story El Informe Roys (TRR) previously published about a former student who claimed Liberty failed to report her gang rape in 2005. The student filed a complaint with a victim advocacy group, which led to an investigation by the DOE and a settlement in 2014, requiring Liberty to pay a $120,000 fine.
Employees retaliated against for calling out Liberty’s shortcomings
Many employees reportedly tried to raise the alarm about how Liberty handled crime reporting. But the draft report found that Liberty created a culture of silence and retaliated against them, according to the Post.
TRR has obtained a three-page excerpt of the DOE report from an anonymous source whose identity TRR has verified.
According to the excerpt, the DOE found that Liberty retaliated against a former senior vice president after he tried to address Clery Act violations. The executive’s efforts to make Liberty abide by the law “coincided closely” with his firing, the document said.
The document found that from at least April through October 2021, the employee took issue with “the university’s possible coverup of sex crimes and other violations.” The employee shared his concerns with the interim president and other senior executives several times, including at an executive leadership meeting on October 2, 2021.
Liberty fired the employee just two days after that meeting, on October 4, 2021, the document stated. He was offered a severance package if he signed a non-disclosure agreement, but he refused, according to the excerpt.
The university reportedly claimed the employee was fired because his office was being restructured. But the report found other employees were also terminated amid “restructuring” after bringing up campus safety concerns, according to the leaked excerpt.
The Clery Act includes protections for employees or students who raise concerns about an institution’s compliance, according to the excerpt. It specifically bars institutions from retaliating against someone seeking to abide by the Clery Act.
DOE alleges Liberty deleted records
To add to this, the preliminary report found the university didn’t keep records required by the Clery Act and even destroyed various records, according to the Post.
When the Education Department notified Liberty in February 2022 about the review, the school allegedly wiped multiple hard drives in the HR department. In addition, the DOE reportedly claimed Liberty could not substantiate its campus crime statistics, as required to receive federal student aid.
Under the Clery Act, Liberty must publish an annual safety report and make daily crime logs publicly available. Investigators said the school substantially revised reports in 2018-2021 and posted the revised versions online without notifying those on campus.
Investigators reportedly alleged the university could have “simply estimated its crime statistics or otherwise made them up to serve the long-standing narrative … that it was the safest college in Virginia.”
Freelance journalist Liz Lykins escribe for WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Ministry Watch, and other publications.