Liberty University fined record $14 million for campus safety law violations

The Department of Education imposed a record $14 million fine on Liberty University, a Christian college located in Virginia, over violations of a campus safety law, officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Education said it was the largest fine ever imposed for violating the Clery Act, which requires colleges to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

Liberty University also agreed to spend an additional $2 million to improve on-campus safety over the next two years.

The Department of Education initiated the review in 2022 after receiving complaints that alleged the college committed violations of the Clery Act. The review also followed a 2021 lawsuit, in which 12 women claimed that the school created an environment that increased the likelihood of sexual assault and rape. The case was settled in 2022.

The Department of Education’s Clery Act review, conducted by the office of Federal Student Aid, identified 11 violations, such as failing to maintain an accurate, daily crime log; failing to issue timely warnings to the campus community about reportable crimes; and failing to comply with numerous sexual violence prevention and response requirements.

“Through the Clery Act schools are obligated to take action that creates safe and secure campus communities, investigate complaints, and responsibly disclose information about crimes and other safety concerns. We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so,” Richard Cordray, Federal Student Aid’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The legislation was passed in 1990 after Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her college dorm at Lehigh University, according to the Clery Center.

In 2019, Michigan State University was fined $4.5 million under the Clery Act – a record at the time – in connection with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

The Department of Education said Tuesday that Liberty University’s administration promptly acknowledged the violations outlined in its report and demonstrated a commitment to remedy them.

In a statement, Liberty University said it agrees with the Department of Education “that numerous compliance deficiencies existed in the past.”

“We acknowledge and sincerely regret these errors and have since corrected them in a manner that allows us to maintain compliance in each of these areas,” it said.

But Liberty University took issue with the way the Department of Education conducted its review, adding that many of its “methodologies, findings, and calculations in the report were drastically different from their historic treatment of other universities.”

“Liberty disagrees with this approach and maintains that we have repeatedly endured selective and unfair treatment by the Department,” it said.

Liberty University was founded in 1971 by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, who wanted to create a Christian university for evangelical believers. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., resigned from his post as president of the university in 2020, a day after reports that he and his wife took part in a sexual relationship with a former hotel pool attendant.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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