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Liberty University Fined a Record-Setting $14 Million by the Department of Education

Liberty University Fined a Record-Setting $14 Million by the Department of Education

Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the U.S., has agreed to pay a $14 million fine as a result of a Department of Education review into its poor handling of campus safety, including its mistreatment of sexual assault cases.

The Department of Education investigation found that Liberty had repeatedly violated the Clery Act, which requires colleges to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

From 2016 to 2021, the Department of Education found 101 unreported cases of violence and sexual assault, including rape, date violence, domestic violence and aggravated assault. The report identified numerous cases that were misclassified or underreported, as well as several incidents that the university determined to be “unfounded” without any clear evidence showing why the initial report was false or baseless.

“This was especially common with respect to sexually based offenses, including rape and fondling cases, many of which were originally classified using non-specific or less specific codes such as sexual assault,” the settlement agreement stated.

Investigators discovered that many victims of sexual crimes on campus were fearful of reporting their incidents because they were scared they would end up in trouble themselves.

“In fact, over the course of this review period, several sexual assault victims were punished for violating the student code of conduct known as ‘The Liberty Way,’ while their assailants were left unpunished,” according to the settlement agreement. “Consequently, victims of sexual assault often felt dissuaded by Liberty administration’s reputation for punishing sexual assault survivors rather than helping them. Such fears created a culture of silence where sexual assaults commonly went unreported.”

According to the settlement agreement:

“The review team found that the University substantially and persistently failed to: 1) provide accurate and complete informational disclosures; 2) comply with the Violence Against Women Act requirements; 3) identify and notify Campus Security Authorities of their status and obligations; 4) compile and disclose accurate, complete, and fully-reconciled crime statistics; 5) issue Timely Warnings and Emergency Notifications as required by the applicable regulations ; 6) maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log; 7) accurately identify Clery Geography; 8) comply with required record-retention provisions; and 9) publish and distribute a compliant ASR.”

It is the largest fine ever imposed by the Department of Education for violating the Clery Act, surpassing the $4.5 million fine against Michigan State University in 2019 for their failure to adequately respond to sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar, a campus sports doctor who molested at least 265 elite gymnasts and other female athletes.

Liberty has shared that it is “fully committed to maintaining the safety and security of students and staff without exception.” The school said it would continue to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education and shared that since 2022, it has made more than $10 million in significant improvements toward complying with the Clery Act, including in educational programming, new leadership and staffing.

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