A preliminary report from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has revealed significant campus safety violations at Liberty University, a prominent Christian university. The report centers on Liberty’s compliance with the Clery Act, a federal law that mandates colleges disclose information about campus crime and safety. The findings suggest that Liberty University consistently underreported campus crimes and discouraged individuals from reporting incidents, despite its claims of being one of the safest campuses in the nation.
The Clery Act compliance program review spans from 2016 to 2022 and highlights several alarming issues. Liberty University failed to warn the campus community about individuals credibly accused of repeated sexual violence, including a senior administrator and an athlete. Additionally, the report alleges that Liberty officials erased multiple hard drives in the human resources department after the government inquiry began, potentially erasing critical evidence.
The university, which received $874 million in student aid in 2020-2021, may face significant fines or jeopardize its eligibility for financial aid as a result of the program review. Liberty has previously faced lawsuits related to its handling of sexual assault cases and was fined $120,000 for Clery Act violations.
The report outlines several cases where Liberty University failed to disclose and address sexual assaults properly. Victims and witnesses were reportedly subjected to intrusive questioning about their sexual history, orientation, alcohol use, and attire when reporting incidents. The findings also indicate that Liberty established a culture of silence and retaliated against employees who tried to raise concerns about crime reporting procedures.
Furthermore, the DOE’s preliminary report suggests that Liberty University did not maintain required records under the Clery Act and even destroyed some records. When the DOE informed Liberty about the review in February 2022, the university allegedly wiped multiple hard drives in the HR department, making it difficult to substantiate campus crime statistics. The report raises concerns that Liberty may have fabricated or manipulated crime statistics to maintain its reputation as one of the safest colleges in Virginia.
Liberty University can dispute the preliminary findings and appeal before the DOE finalizes its program review. The university’s President, Dondi Costin, has asserted that Liberty maintains a legally compliant Clery Act program prioritizing safety and transparency. However, the allegations presented in the preliminary report suggest significant shortcomings in the institution’s handling of campus safety and reporting of crimes.
Liz Lykins writes on The Roys Report:
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.”
Read the article here.