The Department of Education and Liberty University have been entangled in a contentious situation, raising questions about religious freedom and sexual assault reporting.
So Much for Liberty
The nation’s most influential Christian academic institution, Liberty University, accused the Department of Education (ED) of attempting to damage its reputation by leaking a Clery Act compliance report to the media.
Liberty University is currently undergoing a program review by the ED regarding its Clery Act compliance.
The University claims to have faced unfair treatment, including an unprecedented fine and the premature leaking of a preliminary report to the media.
Sexual Assault Allegations
They seem less concerned about the contents of the preliminary report, which suggests that the university may have concealed serious sexual assault incidents and underreported campus crime statistics to maintain a pristine image.
Taking Responsibilities Seriously
In response to Liberty University’s accusations, an ED official provided a statement emphasizing the department’s commitment to ensuring the safety and academic opportunities of all students in higher education institutions.
The ED’s primary focus is on monitoring and investigating safety complaints, taking its oversight responsibilities seriously.
However, the Department of Education refrains from commenting on ongoing institutional oversight activities, program reviews, or investigations.
They clarified that if a regulatory sanction is deemed necessary, the institution will be informed before details are made public.
Crime? What Crime?
However, the Washington Post released an article on October 3, revealing an Education Department investigator’s report on Liberty University’s Clery Act compliance.
The report suggests that the university consistently failed to maintain campus safety, underreported crime incidents, and discouraged the reporting of such incidents in the first place.
Government Money Means Government Oversight
The Clery Act mandates that colleges participating in federal financial aid programs must maintain and disclose crime statistics and other relevant information about campus safety.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, Liberty University received $874 million for student loans and grants from the Department of Education.
This Scandal Could Negatively Impact Us
Despite the ED’s findings, officials at the private evangelical university in Virginia vehemently deny the allegations.
Liberty University’s president is concerned that the leak of the ED’s findings to the media could negatively impact their negotiations with the department. He believes that someone intentionally leaked the report to undermine the negotiations.
That’s a Big Fine!
Moreover, Liberty University claims to have been threatened with an unprecedented $37.5 million fine, significantly larger than recent fines imposed by the Department of Education on other universities, such as the $4.5-million fine imposed on Michigan State University for the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Patch the Leaks
The leak of the preliminary report has raised significant concerns, as it occurred while Liberty University was in the process of negotiating with the ED to address the issues raised in the report.
Liberty University is currently in the midst of an appeal process aimed at reducing the potential fine.
No Safety on Campus
The Washington Post reported that anonymous sources alleged that Liberty University’s Clery Act violations were a result of a “fundamental lack of administrative ability to keep the campus safe.”
Liberty Could Care Less
The investigation found that the university failed to adequately handle complaints of crimes, produce incident reports, issue warnings about emergencies and safety threats, inform crime victims of their rights, and maintain the necessary data for crime statistics.
Gas Leaks, Bomb Threats and Sexual Assault
These allegations encompassed various issues, including gas leaks, bomb threats, and allegations of repeated sexual violence.
The ED’s preliminary report also included serious sexual assault accusations against top officials and an athlete.
Meet the New President…
Notably, it mentioned that a former president was involved in a rape incident.
However, the report did not seek to establish the guilt of the accused but focused on whether the allegations were reported.
The Washington Post confirmed the findings through two anonymous sources familiar with the department’s investigation.
The newspaper stands by its reporting and protects its sources, maintaining the confidentiality of the document’s nature.
No Sex Please, We’re Students
Liberty University, co-founded by Christian Right activist Jerry Falwell, Sr., is known for its conservative honor code, which regulates personal conduct, including the prohibition of premarital sex.
The university also has strong ties to former President Trump and boasts a vast student body of 130,000 students, including those in its online programs.
The Department of Education Is a Joke
The situation between Liberty University and the Department of Education has led to a strong reaction online.
One user online posted “Constitutionally speaking…The DOE is a department NOT in compliance with the Constitution and should be done away with.”
One said more simply “The Department of Education is a joke.”
So Much for Christian Values
Others online have spoken out against the fundamentalist Christian University, with one user posting online “If female students’ safety is tarnishing your image, I wonder at other policies in your school?
Another user commented “If you think that the administration of Liberty wouldn’t stoop to silencing assault claims you just haven’t been paying attention to this right wing evangelical nationalist ’institution’.”
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