Liberty University to pay $14M fine over failure to disclose campus crime

Liberty University has agreed to pay a $14 million fine over failing to report campus crime, the Biden administration announced Tuesday.

The Education Department said its Federal Student Aid (FSA) office is imposing the fine as part of a settlement agreement with Liberty University related to violations of the Clery Act, which requires schools that receive federal funding to collect data on public safety and warn its students of threats, among other requirements.

“Students, faculty, and staff deserve to know that they can be safe and secure in their school communities,” FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said. “We respond aggressively to complaints about campus safety and security.”

“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,” Cordray added. “We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so.”

The $14 million fine is the largest imposed on a school for violating the Clery Act, per the department. As part of the agreement, the school will spend $2 million on campus safety improvements and compliance enhancements.

The Education Department wrote in its program review report issued Tuesday that Liberty “substantially failed to develop and implement an adequate Clery Act compliance program.”

The review of Liberty identified 11 findings that the FSA said was in violation of the Clery Act. The review alleged Liberty had “inaccurate and incomplete informational disclosures,” failed to comply with the Violence Against Women Act requirements and failed to issue emergency notifications and timely warnings according to federal regulations.

The Education Department said the fine and other actions Liberty will take in the settlement “reflect the serious and longstanding nature of Liberty’s violations, which undermined campus safety for students, faculty, and staff.”

In a statement on the fine, Liberty University accused the Education Department of treating the school differently than other institutions but acknowledged that there were “numerous deficiencies.”

“In the report, many of the Department’s methodologies, findings, and calculations were drastically different from their historic treatment of other universities,” the statement reads. “Liberty disagrees with this approach and maintains that we have repeatedly endured selective and unfair treatment by the Department.”

“The University concurs there were numerous deficiencies that existed in the past. Examples include incorrect statistical reports as well as necessary timely warnings and emergency notifications that were not sent,” they added. “We acknowledge and sincerely regret past program deficiencies and have since corrected these errors with great care and concern.”

The school also noted that it has made more than $10 million in “significant advancements” to ensure compliance in Title IX and Clery Act Programs.

“We will continue to work in cooperation with the Department to prioritize safety in our Liberty University community and to advocate for a fair, consistent, and principled standard of Clery compliance that is applied equally to all universities without prejudice,” they said.

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