“This is the single most blistering Clery report I have ever read. Ever,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus safety consultant who reviewed a copy of the Education Department’s preliminary report on Liberty University’s (Va.) campus safety compliance, obtained by The Washington Post. “I cannot think of a single other comparable case in the entire 32-year history of the Clery Act.”
In the confidential report on the school’s Clery Act compliance, the Department found Liberty had failed to warn the campus community about gas leaks, bomb threats and potential sexual offenders. Moreover, it suggests Liberty discouraged people, such as sexual assault survivors, from reporting crimes and underreported the claims it received.
Allegations of sexual violence reached all the top. Investigators found that police took a report involving an “alleged rape that was committed by a former Liberty president” but failed to make a daily crime log. The president remained unnamed.
The Department also contends that Liberty officials began destroying evidence after it launched its compliance investigation in May 2021. Lawsuits from over 20 women over its handling of past sexual assault claims and urges from Congress helped spur the inquiry.
“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,” read the report.
Liberty, a Christian University that boasted around 130,000 students in 2022 thanks to its stake in online education, is also in the middle of a lawsuit waged by its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, who founded the school.
Liberty regularly touted itself as the “safest college in Virginia,” the report found.
How did Liberty discourage more students from speaking up?
The report claims that the school regularly referenced its honor code, the Liberty Way, to intimidate students from reporting claims of sexual assault, ProPublica reports.
As a Christian institution, the honor code prohibits drinking and sex outside of marriage, alleged rape victims who spoke out faced potential violations because they had been drinking. And for the assault to occur in the first place, college administrators contended that it proved they had pre-marital sex.
When Liberty Police Department intimidated Sarah Mays out of filing a police report on being stalked by one of the men she accused of raping and impregnating her, she said the dean of Liberty’s office of women accused her of filing a fraudulent police report. And because Mays was unmarried and pregnant, she could face expulsion for violating the Liberty Way, USA Today reports.
Undermining and underreporting basic campus safety
The report contends that staff, administrators and other stakeholders have long recommended the school begin issuing campus-wide alerts safety alerts. However, school leaders rejected or outright ignored their advice, and they even ordered the Liberty University Police Department not to issue such warnings, according to investigators.
Underreporting crime led to an unchecked administrator racking up a streak of sexual violence against subordinates. Although police had obtained reports about the individual’s sex offenses in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the school had promoted the individual, despite its human resources department being familiar with the reports.
Based on interviews, the report says, “it is clear that many members of the campus community have been extremely concerned” about his continued presence at the university.”
Furthermore, one campus police officer “was subjected to disciplinary action” for helping issue an emergency notification about a bomb threat – even though the action complied with Federal law.
It’s important to note that because this is a preliminary investigation, the report obtained by The Post may be modified if Liberty presents evidence that proves otherwise.
“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,” Liberty President Dondi Costin said, according to AP News.
The Department is unable to reach for comment during the pending investigation.