The U.S. government of Education is facing backlash from Liberty University, which claims that a government official released a report stating that the university covered up sexual assault cases and generally underreported crime on campus in order to maintain a good reputation.
A report on the school’s Clery Act compliance that was released on May 1 according to a report by the Education Department was covered by The Washington Post earlier this month. The report claimed that the school had repeatedly failed to keep its campus safe, underreported crime claims, and discouraged reports of it in the first place. Colleges that take part in federal financial assistance programmes are required to maintain and publish crime statistics as well as other up-to-date data about campus safety. Liberty University got $874 million in grants and student loans from the Education Department in 2020–2021.
The conclusions of the Education Department are refuted by representatives of the private evangelical university in Virginia. The president of Liberty is concerned that negotiations with the ED would be impacted by the report’s release to the Post and thinks it was done to “poison the well.” The school also claims that it has been threatened with a record-breaking $37.5 million fine, which would be significantly more than recent Department of Education fines assessed against universities, such as the $4.5 million fine assessed against Michigan State in connection with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse incident.
The Department of Education leaked a preliminary report while we were in the middle of negotiations with the department about all the improvements we’d made, which is the most destructive aspect of the entire process, as far as any of us are aware. The major problem is that, according to Dr. Dondi E. Costin, president of Liberty University, who spoke to Fox News Digital.
“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.”
Jerry Falwell, Sr., a televangelist and Christian Right activist, helped found Liberty, which is renowned for its strict conservative code of conduct, which forbids premarital sex, among other things. It has a long history of connections to President Trump. The Lynchburg, Virginia-based Liberty University is home to nearly 130,000 students, including those enrolled in its online programmes.
Costin said that the report was leaked before they could develop a case to the ED before a deadline on June 30 to dispute the conclusions.
In a statement, the institution claimed that since October of last year, “significant advancements” had been made in terms of safety.
“I believe that if you examine the Department of Education report, you will find a number of unsubstantiated claims made in poor faith. They seem to be reading the university’s thoughts, according to Costin, who was chosen by the board in March. He claimed that the university always gave students’ safety and security top priority.
They are speculating about our motives. They contend that we behaved dishonestly. The report, in my opinion, has a number of factual mistakes. They presume, for instance, that everyone making these claims is truthful, sincere, and transparent, but in reality, many of the statements they’ve made are based solely on anecdotal evidence, he added.
We haven’t had the chance to reply in a fashion that would allow us, at least in a public environment – allow us to rebut these allegations that have been made with factual mistakes, which is part of the issue we have here because they released this report is now in the public. I would say that there is ill faith and frequent misrepresentation of legal requirements.
The Clery Act was broken by Liberty University, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Washington Post, because of “a fundamental lack of administrative ability to keep the campus safe.”
“It found the school did not adequately take complaints of crimes, produce incident reports, warn the campus of emergencies and threats to safety, advise crime victims of their rights or handle the data needed for crime statistics,” according to the Post.
These involve “gas leaks, bomb threats, and people credibly accused of repeated acts of sexual violence.”
In addition, the Post reported that the ED report details significant allegations of sexual assault against high-ranking officials and an athlete. It mentioned the fact that a previous president was one of the rapists. No one responsible for the sexual assault was found, though, because the investigation “focused on whether allegations were reported, not whether they could be substantiated.”
Students’ complaints about the university’s “honour code” – community rules that, for example, encourage chastity – are also mentioned in the Education Department’s probe. Their arguments centre on how the rules stifle reporting by sexual assault victims or witnesses.
Students and witnesses who claimed sexual assault allegedly had their drinking or sexual past or any other factor that might have contributed to their dilemma questioned.
Moreover, the ED allegedly stated in its report that “senior officials in HR requested 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” after informing Liberty University in February 2022 that it would be reviewed for its compliance with the Clery Act and to keep any records relevant for an investigation.
ED investigators allegedly discovered that Liberty University distributed annual reports to students and staff from 2018 to 2021 but later changed the statistics and posted them on the school’s website without notifying them. Schools are required to publish an annual safety report and make daily crime logs publicly available.
The Washington Post said that “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 the story, the findings were corroborated by two individuals who were aware with the department’s investigation’s findings; however, they requested anonymity due to the document’s confidential nature.
When contacted by Fox News Digital for response, a Washington Post representative said: “We stand by our reporting and we protect our sources.”
The Liberty University appeal process to reduce the potential fine is now in progress.
Before the department makes a final decision, the institution may object to and challenge a preliminary report if the ED has reasonable suspicion that a college violated the Clery Act compliance standards.