Christian Institution Liberty University Claims Department Of Education Is Trying To Damage Their Reputation
The Department of Education (ED) responded on Tuesday to Liberty University’s allegations of attempting to tarnish its reputation by leaking a Clery Act compliance report to the media, one of the most influential Christian academic institutions in the nation.
Accusing The DOE
As Liberty University undergoes a program review by the ED regarding their compliance with the Clery Act, they have accused the department of treating them unfairly. They claim that they were subjected to an unprecedented fine and that a preliminary report was leaked to the Washington Post before they had the opportunity to defend themselves.
The preliminary report suggests that the university had concealed serious sexual assault incidents and underreported campus crime statistics to maintain a clean image.
Responding To The Accusation
In response to Liberty University’s allegations, an ED official provided a statement to Fox News Digital, stating, “The U.S. Department of Education’s top priority is protecting safety and academic opportunity for all students at institutions of higher education. We monitor and investigate all safety complaints and take our oversight responsibilities to protect students’ wellbeing seriously,” the ED official said.
“The Department does not comment on pending institutional oversight activities, program reviews, or investigations. When the Department determines that a regulatory sanction is warranted, such a step would be communicated to the institution first before details are shared with the public,” they continued.
Concerns Over The University's Clery Act Compliance
On October 3, The Washington Post released an article discussing the Education Department investigator’s report concerning the school’s Clery Act compliance.
The article suggested that the school had consistently failed to maintain campus safety, engaging in the underreporting of crime incidents and discouraging the reporting of such incidents in the first place.
$874 Million Dollars In Student Loans And Grants
Colleges that participate in federal financial aid programs are required to maintain and disclose crime statistics and other relevant information regarding campus safety.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, Liberty University received $874 million in student loans and grants from the Department of Education.
'Poison The Well'
Officials at this private evangelical university in Virginia strongly refute the allegations outlined in the Education Department’s findings.
The university’s president expressed concern that the leak of the ED’s findings to the media might impact their negotiations with the ED and suspected that someone had intentionally leaked the report to “poison the well.”
An Unprecedented Fine
Furthermore, the university has stated that it is facing an unprecedented fine of $37.5 million, significantly higher than recent fines imposed on other universities by the Department of Education, such as the $4.5 million penalty imposed on Michigan State about the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Leaking A Preliminary Report
“The most damaging element of this whole process is the fact that for the first time that any of us are aware, the Department of Education leaked a preliminary report while we are in the process of negotiating with the department about all the advancements that we’ve made. And so that’s the biggest issue,” Liberty University President Dr. Dondi E. Costin emphasized in an interview with Fox News Digital.
The Leak's Intentions
He further asserted, “The leak is intentionally aimed at laying the groundwork for an unprecedented fine and the report is filled with factual errors that the Department has admitted to Liberty in their negotiations.”
In The Middle Of An Appeal Process
Costin alleged that the report was leaked before they had an opportunity to present their case to the ED, ahead of a June 30 deadline for disputing the findings. Liberty University is currently in the midst of an appeal process to reduce the potential fine.
Violating The Clery Act
According to The Washington Post, anonymous sources disclosed that Liberty University had violated the Clery Act due to “a fundamental lack of administrative ability to keep the campus safe.”
Mishandling Data On Crime Statistics
The report found that the school had inadequately addressed complaints of crimes, failed to generate incident reports, neglected to inform the campus about emergencies and safety threats, did not properly advise crime victims of their rights, and mishandled the data required for crime statistics.
These issues encompassed incidents such as “gas leaks, bomb threats, and people credibly accused of repeated acts of sexual violence.”
Other Serious Allegations
Moreover, The Washington Post‘s reporting alleged that the ED report contained serious sexual assault accusations against high-ranking officials, including an athlete. The report even suggested that a former president of the university was implicated in a rape case.
However, the investigation did not identify any sexual assault perpetrators, as its focus was on determining whether the allegations had been reported, not on substantiating them.
Failed To Maintain Records
The Washington Post‘s article further notes, “The preliminary report contends that the university failed to adequately maintain the records required for oversight and selectively destroyed or removed some records.”
According to individuals familiar with the conclusions of the department’s investigation, as reported by The Washington Post, these findings were confirmed. They, however, spoke on condition of anonymity due to the document’s confidential nature.
Strong Ties To Trump
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for The Washington Post affirmed, “We stand by our reporting, and we protect our sources.”
Liberty University, co-founded by Christian Right activist and televangelist Jerry Falwell, Sr., is renowned for its conservative honor code governing personal conduct, including a prohibition on premarital sex.
The university has also maintained strong ties with former President Trump. Liberty serves a student body of 130,000, encompassing both on-campus and online programs, and is located in Lynchburg, Virginia.