Liberty University Fined $14 Million for Campus Safety Law Violations

Liberty University, the Virginia-based conservative Christian college founded by the late Jerry Falwell, has been hit with a record $14 million fine by the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Clery Act. This act mandates that institutions receiving federal funds report crime statistics and maintain campus safety. In addition to the fine, the largest ever for Clery Act violations, Liberty University has agreed to allocate an extra $2 million toward campus safety improvements.

The Department of Education’s decision comes after a two-year investigation that unearthed the university’s systemic underreporting of crime complaints and discouragement of student reports. The investigation was sparked by allegations and a lawsuit from 12 women in 2021, claiming the school fostered an environment conducive to sexual assault and rape, which was settled in 2022.

Rich Cordray, the chief operating officer for student aid at the Department of Education, emphasized the Clery Act’s role in ensuring safe campus communities through the investigation of complaints and responsible disclosure of safety concerns. “We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so,” he stated, underscoring the government’s commitment to campus safety.

The Department’s review pointed out 11 violations by Liberty University, including failures in maintaining an accurate daily crime log, issuing timely warnings for reportable crimes, and adhering to sexual violence prevention and response requirements. These findings highlight significant lapses in the university’s commitment to the safety and security of its campus community.

Liberty University acknowledged the deficiencies in its statement, expressing regret over past shortcomings and asserting that corrective measures have been diligently implemented. However, the university criticized the Department of Education’s approach, alleging “selective and unfair treatment” and discrepancies in methodologies, findings, and calculations compared to historical treatments of other universities.

The fine surpasses the previous record of $4.5 million imposed on Michigan State University in 2019 related to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, marking a significant moment in the enforcement of the Clery Act. This legislation, enacted in 1990 following the rape and murder of Jeanne Clery at Lehigh University, serves as a critical framework for campus safety and transparency.

Liberty University’s settlement, while addressing past compliance deficiencies, raises questions about the consistent application of federal laws across institutions and underscores the ongoing challenge of ensuring campus safety nationwide. As the university moves forward with its commitment to rectify identified issues, the broader educational community remains vigilant about the importance of adhering to legal requirements for the protection and well-being of students.

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