A Student’s Defense of Liberty University

In the past few days, Liberty University, a private institution in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been subjected to the relentless criticism of the American press and public. The New York Times, Politico, The Guardian, and other news outlets reported on the status of the University throughout the last week of March, criticizing the University’s President, Jerry Falwell Jr., for making questionable comments in interviews and acting rashly. In an editorial piece, The Washington Post referred to the President’s decision as exhibiting a “staggering level of ignorance,” when he decided to reopen the campus after spring break.

“Unfortunately, Western media has consistently embraced the panic ignited by the global spread of COVID-19, and Liberty University is the next unfortunate victim in its unrelenting quest for a climate of unprecedented fear.”

These brazen critiques have certainly garnered the attention of the public, motivating thousands of disgruntled Americans to attack the University’s Instagram account with harsh messages about the school’s recklessness. These attacks would be well deserved, assuming they were based in accuracy; but they are not. Unfortunately, Western media has consistently embraced the panic ignited by the global spread of COVID-19, and Liberty University is the next unfortunate victim in its unrelenting quest for a climate of unprecedented fear.

Most of the unfavorable reports began on March 25, 2020, when Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia openly criticized Liberty University for allowing students to return to campus and suggested that Liberty “look to the actions of the leaders of Virginia’s flagship universities” to better inform their decision. Governor Northam would have Liberty look to leaders of institutions like the University of Virginia, whose dining services and dormitories remain open to approved students that cannot leave campus because of safety concerns in their hometowns or countries, just like Liberty University. Governor Northam would have Liberty emulate the actions of Virginia Tech, which has reported nearly 1,000 students remaining on campus, a number that continues to decline daily, just like Liberty University. To make matters worse, before publicly criticizing the school, the Virginian governor had already sent state health inspectors on a surprise visit to the Lynchburg campus, where they reported all facilities were in compliance with Executive Order 53, which placed strict regulations on all non-essential businesses. Despite this knowledge, Governor Northam spoke out against Liberty University, claiming they had failed to protect their students and the community.

“This is not business as usual.”

In the days following the Governor’s comments, media outlets began to report that “things [were] business as usual” at Liberty University; this could not be further from the truth. All residential classes were moved online less than two days into spring break, and faculty was encouraged to work from home. The overwhelming majority of students returned to campus to collect their things and return to their hometowns, leaving less than 900 students in the dormitories. At a university with nearly 1,000 international students, this number is wholly legitimate. Dining locations closed all sitting areas and all self-service stations are now manned by employees using disposable equipment. The recreational facilities have been dismantled. All clubs and athletic events have been suspended. The library is strictly regulated, and all group study areas were closed. Signage displaying phrases like “Closed for Social Distancing,” “Wash Hands for 20 Seconds,” etc. have been posted on virtually every available mirror, wall, or table. Liberty University has transformed from a thriving community of more than 15,000 students into a glorified apartment complex in less than a week. This is not business as usual.

Adding to the incorrect reports, in the past 24 hours, articles have begun to suggest students at Liberty University have tested positive for COVID-19. Although no current residential student has tested positive, one graduated student and a full-time resident of Lynchburg has contracted the virus, to the almost elation of the American media. Interestingly enough, an uncountable amount of colleges have already identified positive cases within their own communities, including some of Governor Northam’s beloved flagships, like James Madison University, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech, but these institutions have received little media attention. This virus has infiltrated every facet of American life, and all college communities and their students can expect to feel these pressures.

“I am offended on the behalf of Liberty University, my University, and its students that deserve to live in a world that values the truth.”

As a full-time student at Liberty University, I am extremely offended by the dishonesty of both Governor Northam and the press that has rallied behind him. The Governor of Virginia deceptively villainized a university that he knew was fully complying with all state health regulations. The media has published thousands of words dedicated to destroying a university that has done what other institutions have done in the wake of an unprecedented and evolving public health crisis. I am offended on behalf of international students, who live in China and the Bahamas and Italy, in countries they cannot return to, forced to apologize because they have not been left homeless. I am offended on behalf of students that live in New York City and Seattle, attacked for staying away from cities far more dangerous than their dorm rooms. I am offended on behalf of students that have done their part and returned to their permanent residence, forfeiting the rest of their semester. I am offended on behalf of our seniors, who have had their commencement ceremony moved to September and lost the opportunity to make the memories they have dreamed of for four years. I am offended on behalf of a student body that gathers weekly to hear from and respect speakers with a drastic range of views, like Ben Shapiro and Bernie Sanders, and has always strived to create an environment of excellence and respect. I am offended on behalf of a University community that, as a graduation requirement, dedicates more than 500,000 hours of service to the Lynchburg community, with many students going above and beyond these commitments. I am offended on the behalf of Liberty University, my University, and its students that deserve to live in a world that values the truth.

56 thoughts on “A Student’s Defense of Liberty University

  1. Amen. Thank you so much for this. The attack has been relentlessly on students, parents, faculty and staff. There was a day when this slander would be held accountable why is it not now?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! The national news fails to see that Liberty is a 7000 acre school. The library is the size of 8 Walmart’s. Logically a six ft rule for 1000 students…is a quarantine dream. Please stop attacking our campus, and shaming our faculty, and students.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This is so sad but not surprising! The governor of Virginia is flat out against anything that is pure and holy. The only reason you are being attacked by him and the media is because the school is Christian and stands in Christian principles. Stay strong in your faith!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! His words during this time have been very discouraging, but students are willing to stand for the truth with grace. Please share this article wherever you can!

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  2. Currently East Tennessee State University, in my native northeastern Tennessee, has 450 students still on campus finishing out Spring Semester. There are probably many more colleges, universities and boarding prep schools with students on campus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for a well- worded, well-reasoned response. As a Liberty parent, I find myself having to unnecessarily defend a responsible institution, and our decision to allow our son to remain on campus, where he is, frankly, safer than in our home with 3 working individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This kind of thing has been going on since 1971 when the doors of LU opened. At least now with the internet we have the ability to share the truth instead of the media having all the exposure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. couldn’t agree more. politico tried to pull this stunt earlier in the year. as a student, i am done watching my amazing school suffer at the hands of liars. please share this wherever you can

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  5. Thank you for your dedication and passion for Liberty. Satan will try to tear down any light for Jesus in this world so we shouldn’t be surprised, but I am encouraged by your fighting for truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, This is what your President said as reported by Fox News, till he backtracked the next day –

    “I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” President Jerry Falwell Jr. said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    https://www.foxnews.com/us/liberty-university-students-want-to-be-here-despite-coronavirus-pandemic-falwell-says

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love LU and the people and the time I spent there, but, unfortunately, this is not true. Yes, the media has blown all of this out of proportion and lied about the cases on campus, etc.; however, I personally know many people who returned to campus because they wanted to be with friends and didn’t want to be at home. It’s extremely frustrating for someone who has grandparents and parents in Lynchburg who could be hurt by these students’ poor decisions. I agree that the media has tainted Liberty’s image, recently, and that greatly upsets me; however, there are still people on campus making extremely selfish decisions.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi. thanks for sharing. I know people that did thus initially and have since left. And even if those people still remain on campus, we still have less students on campus than colleges like Virginia Tech, so Governor Northam’s criticisms remain invalid

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      1. Thank you Emma for your kind reply. I hope this will help him to choose his statements more carefully in the future, so he doesn’t have to back track and we set up these battle lines!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem! This is what civil discourse is all about. I also agree with you. Most of what our president says is true, but I think we would all like to see him fine tune his words.

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      1. This is irresponsible, as much as I want my school to be open and still operating it’s not because it is not okay to be. These schools are breading grounds for this virus and puts people at risk for getting it

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      2. hi, thanks for sharing your opinion. the piece does outline that several colleges remain open in the same way that liberty does, one of the primary points of the piece. if you would like a more thorough list of colleges in a similar position as liberty, but without all the aggressive media attention, i would be happy to provide it

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  7. Michael Gerson wrote an editorial, an opinion piece, in which he wrote Falwell displayed a “staggering level of ignorance.” There is a big difference between a columnist and a reporter, who reports objectively. It would have been unprofessional for a reporter to write that about Falwell, unless it was said by a source, but it is not unprofessional for an opinion writer to do so. In fact, it’s his job. I hope you will change this in the spirit of truth.

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      1. I’m not talking about opinions. Your statement is factually incorrect and misleading to your readers.

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      2. i understand but based on the content of the article and the blatant misinformation of the washington post, i consider his statement unprofessional. i will consider and edit to the wording, but i will remove the statement entirely

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  8. As the grandmother of 5 Liberty University graduates who are godly people and gainfully employed thanks to the excellent education at Liberty U. As a former college professor myself, I enjoy the way these graduates think critically and speak with intelligence. So, let the media rant and rave, the proof of Liberty U. is in its outstanding graduates.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was a very good read and I thank you that there is another perspective being commented from a Liberty student. But I would have to respectfully disagree with your stance on the issue. I am a sophomore at Liberty and one of the things that drew me to this college was how it took care of students with disabilities as I am one that suffers with many. It is so nice to go to a university that cares for those of the disabled community and I enjoy that thoroughly.

    The problem I mainly have is how Jerry has yet to ever address or mention the students who happen to be immunocompromised like me. During the Convo before spring break he grouped the entire student body saying that this wasn’t a risk for them never mentioning how this could affect someone with asthma or dealing with cancer or anything like that. I get not making decisions based off of outliers but to be statistically honest, one cannot simply group them together and apply a sticker of good health when frankly we knew/know hardly anything about this virus besides how contagious it is.

    Jerry and Liberty could have handled this soo much better but I would also say they shouldn’t have gone the route that many college did which was a panic response. If anything Liberty should have been the most prepared out of any college to transition easily from the classroom to online being that 80% of its students are already there. It would have been better for Jerry have addressed the student body with a plan in place instead of nonchalantly calling this “the flu”

    Once again I thank you for your article but there is just a lot of things that Liberty could have done so much better that I couldn’t blame the media or anyone else for criticizing how this was handled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi, david! thanks for sharing your thoughts. i understand the issue takes on a new layer when you have a higher risk. i also agree that this could have been handled better by our president. this isn’t a defense of our president. it is mostly in defense of liberty’s community as a whole and our students. obviously, most immunocompromised students would want to be home. on the flip side of the issue though are students that fear going home to immunocompromised parents or loved ones. i personally know a girl who remains on campus because her father is at serious risk should he contract the disease and already travels to hospitals in NYC for life sustaining treatments. she doesn’t want to add to his risk. staying at liberty is the best choice for her right now, but she’s trying to work out a way to get home. there’s so many moving parts to this and universities across the U.S. have had to respond to these unprecedented times. everyone is making up a script as they go. it’s going to be flawed, but that doesn’t mean the media or government officials get a free pass to make things worse by lying about the situation. again, thank you for your thoughts. i will be praying for your safety during this time.

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  10. This conveniently ignores a lot of reality in order to paint the university in the most favorable light possible. You can complain all you want about the “mainstream media” portrayal of Liberty vs. other universities, but did the presidents of those universities dismiss COVID-19 as a liberal plot to make Trump look bad? Did the presidents of those universities go on Twitter to defend their decisions with condescension and insults directed at concerned parents and faculty? Did the presidents of those universities suggest that bringing students back to campus was fine because college students are not at risk due to their youth? Did the presidents of those other universities state that because students had paid for room and board, they should return to campus even after most classes had been moved online? Did the presidents of those other universities direct faculty to return to campus and hold office hours even after most classes had been moved online?
    You imply that other universities have done the same thing and not been criticized, but the articles you linked don’t support that. Per your source, Virginia Tech paid students not to return to campus after spring break at all, and was offering incentive for remaining students to leave. The source you linked about UVa was from March 12th, but still indicates that the university was strongly encouraging students to return/stay home (students needed to file for permission to stay in dorms, and only “modified” dining services were offered). To imply that these responses are the same as Liberty/Falwell’s is intellectually dishonest and ignores a lot of the broader context regarding Falwell’s behavior and attitudes. This attempt to retroactively claim some sort of vindication because Falwell eventually walked back some of his more extreme comments is not convincing in the least.

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    1. hi, thank you for sharing your thoughts. i’m going to have to respectfully disagree with most of what you have said. this was not a defense of jerry falwell jr. he did say many things in this process that i wish he would not have and i do not agree with. this was a defense of liberty university, specifically its students. students who have been asked to apologize for not being left homes less or staying somewhere safe. students who have been accused of not living out their faith because their school has remained open, even if they and everyone they know is home. this is also an article addressing governor northam, who has done all that he could to direct media outrage towards liberty university when he had full knowledge of our compliance, as per the state health inspectors analysis. i would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the situation with COVID-19 is constantly changing and unfolding, even virologists and microbiologists change their minds weekly. as the situation unfolded in virginia, liberty university adjusted plans accordingly. all students are online. all faculty are teaching from home etc. it seems dishonest to act like every school has done this perfectly expect liberty. we are all flawed people lead by flawed people that make flawed decisions and say flawed things. i only want full transparency for the sake of the students. you are obviously entitled to hold any opinion that you want, but i will continue to support the students of liberty university and refute the one sided nature of these attacks. prayers for you and your family during these uncertain times.

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      1. I completely agree with you that people should not be attacking Liberty students over this. There’s no need for that at all. As for Governor Northam, I don’t see his comments as an indication of some sort of unfair vendetta against Liberty, as you seem to be suggesting, but I also don’t live in Virginia, so I’m not in any position to tell you you’re wrong. I appreciate that you care very strongly about your university, and while I certainly don’t share those sentiments about Liberty, I know several current and former Liberty students who are intelligent, thoughtful people that I have a great deal of respect for. It’s unfortunate that the university’s president exhibits a pattern of irresponsible behavior that, fairly or not, reflects on the university as a whole. Liberty students, such as yourself, deserve better.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Emma, I completely understand your defense of Liberty as a whole. I found myself pointing out the same errors to friends and family as the criticism started pouring in. One common thread, however, among the disagreements about this article concerns our President himself. While it is true that he is separate from the university, he still represents the university, and while as students we can see the big picture and understand that his words and opinions are not always the end-all, to the outside world, he is the representative of this university and his actions carry significant weight in light of how we are portrayed. However, you are correct in saying that Liberty itself is doing a decent job at addressing the situation, but you shouldn’t avoid admitting that a big part of why that is is because of the criticism received by their initial response. Also, there are misleading sources in your article, as was pointed out by someone else and to maintain a level of trustworthiness, I would suggest you not brush aside their suggestions, but take into consideration what they are saying. No college is handling this perfectly, and Liberty has come under more heat than others, but to claim that it’s just because we aren’t like other colleges is to ignore the words spoken by our president on several occasions that elicited a more intended critique from mainstream media. I’m sorry, but calling a parent of a student a “dummy” for showing concern about the virus, referring to a Liberty professor as that “Baggett lady,” and the interview on Fox News do not add up for a kind critique of Liberty. I’m not saying we should’ve had the level of critique we received, I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be surprising in light of the words from the man who is supposed to represent us.

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    1. thanks for sharing your thoughts. again, this article is not about Jerry Falwell Jr. Time and time again i wish he would be more respectful in his interactions with others and admit that he does not know everything. But that is probably not going to change and i love the university regardless. I did not come to represent Jerry or condone some of his undoubtedly unprofessional behavior. I wanted to represent the facts and give students like myself an outlet to share the real situation at Liberty with their friends and family members, who have been offering relentless criticism, because the media has not been truthful. second, all of the information i utilized from the sources is wholly accurate. uva does remain open with altered meal arrangements and 300+ students, like i said. Virginia Tech does remain open with 1000+ students, like i said. the virginian governor did send state health inspectors to liberty and they reported total compliance, like i said. These are the facts. The universities’ desire for their students to leave does not magically diminish the numbers; i even mentioned, for transparency, that the number at VTech declines daily. For these reasons, i will not be altering the sources. I reported the truth. I would also like to point out that I never claimed our criticism had anything to do with our political or religious beliefs and us being “different than anyone else.” I only made a point to factually report the numbers of other universities. praying for safety for you and your family in the midst of this crisis.

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  12. MY WIFE & I ARE GRANDPARENTS OF STUDENS AT LIBERTY. WE WILL BE PRAYING FOR THIS SITUATION THAT IT WILL BE SOLVED…TO GOD BE THE GLORY IN THE OUTCOME!!! SAMUEL R. CUNDIFF

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Keep up the good work of finding out truth and reporting on it. There are always going to be mistakes and words taken out of context. I’d still rather have the search for truth be the ultimate goal not perfection. Strive for excellence which is what Liberty does and along the way expect mistakes. God’s grace is bigger than human behavior. Thank God for Universities like Liberty.

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