For example, a Liberty athlete who faced rape accusations continued playing for the school after he was found guilty of stalking. A senior administrator who was demoted following sexual harassment claims remained at the university, with no warnings issued. The campus wasn’t alerted when a 14-year-old summer-camp attendee was the victim of an attempted abduction at Liberty in 2018 or when a staff member was fired in 2019 for allegedly raping a fellow employee.
Among the Liberty University Police Department incident reports that apparently weren’t included in the school’s daily crime log was “an alleged rape that was committed by a former Liberty President.” As the Washington Post reports, only two past presidents, Falwell Jr. and John Borek, were alive when the report was drafted in May 2023. Borek hasn’t responded to requests for comments, and Falwell Jr. said, “I never heard anything about it, and it had nothing to do with me.”
Also mentioned in the report is a 2016 incident, when a campus police officer noticed “stacks of incident reports laying on tables in an unsecured room” and later discovered the records were to be “shredded.” Whether that incident occurred is unclear. And when federal investigators first visited Liberty in April 2022, senior human resources officials at the school reportedly “sought the assistance of IT staff to wipe certain computer hard drives.”
Safety Expert: Preliminary Report Is ‘Blistering’ and ‘Damning’
Campus safety consultant S. Daniel Carter shared his thoughts after reviewing the Education Department’s initial findings about Liberty. “This is the single most blistering Clery report I have ever read. Ever,” he said. “I cannot think of a single other comparable case in the entire 32-year history of the Clery Act.” Carter also characterized the preliminary findings as “the most damning I’ve ever seen in over 26 years of reviewing these types of investigations.”
Reviews of Clery Act compliance are “very rare,” added Carter. He said it’s “the most serious campus safety-related investigation any institution of higher education is ever going to face.”
On social media, Carter pointed out that the Clery Act isn’t just about crime statistics. “Colleges have had to issue warnings about dangers and make public how they protect their campuses which now includes sexual misconduct & missing students,” he posted.
“I think the most significant finding is overall that [Liberty] lacked a comprehensive report to compliance with the Clery Act, lacked infrastructure necessary to put everything into place to keep their campus safe,” Carter said. “The lack of adequate personnel, the lack of adequate training, lack of adequate authority to comply with the law. Those are the most serious findings.” Carter also noted that Liberty “has undertaken a lot of corrective measures” and said it’s important to wait until the report is finalized.
Settlements of Clery Act violations can result in fines, which can be appealed. They also can “result in the loss of eligibility to participate in the [federal] student aid program,” Carter said. During the 2020-2021 school year, Liberty received $874 million from the Department of Education for student loans and grants.
Liberty University Affirms Its Commitment to Safety
When questioned by The Washington Post, Liberty University initially said it wouldn’t comment because the outlet had “made claims based on some information that is false, is not final, and is not public.” But after the newspaper published its story, the school posted a statement on its website. Liberty acknowledged previous “gaps in compliance” with the Clery Act, saying it took “timely action to remedy” them. The school also indicated it has hired two firms to assist with compliance standards and with responding to the Education Department.
After receiving the preliminary findings in May, Liberty said it submitted initial and supplemental responses that detailed “significant errors, misstatements, and unsupported conclusions in the [Education] Department’s preliminary findings.” The school added that it “has every expectation that the Department will carefully evaluate the information and documents and correct the errors in the preliminary program review report.”