Christian University Hit With $14M Fine

Liberty University, a Christian school based in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been handed a massive, record-breaking fine from the Department of Education.

The $14 million fine is the largest ever imposed by the DOE on a university over violations of campus safety laws.

On Tuesday, officials announced the fine, which was handed down based on violations Liberty University committed of the Clery Act. That law requires all colleges to maintain and disclose statistics on campus crime as well as security information.

While Liberty is a private university, it participates in certain federal programs and thus must abide by the law.

In addition to the massive fine, Liberty University also agreed to spend an additional $2 million to improve safety on its campus over the next two years.

The review was initiated by the DOE in 2022 after the agency received complaints about violations of the Clery Act. It also came after a lawsuit was filed in 2021 by 12 women who claimed the school created an environment that actually increased the likelihood that rape and sexual assault would be committed.

The university settled that case with the group of women in 2022.

The review identified 11 total violations, including failing to maintain a daily crime log that was accurate, failing to issue timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that were reported, and failing to comply with various sexual violence response and prevention requirements.

In a statement, Richard Cordray, who serves as the chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid — the DOE office that conducted the review — said:

“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.”

The Clery Act was passed back in 1990 after Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University, was raped and murdered in her dorm room.

The largest previous fine under the law was handed down in 2019 to Michigan State University, which was fined $4.5 million over the sexual abuse scandal that revolved around the now-imprisoned Larry Nassar.

In their announcement on Tuesday, the DOE said that the administration at Liberty University promptly acknowledged the violations that the report outlined, and demonstrated that they were committed to fixing the issues.

Liberty issued a statement of its own in which it agreed with the DOE “that numerous compliance deficiencies existed in the past.”

The statement continued:

“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.”

That being said, the university took issue with how the review was conducted by the DOE, saying many of the “methodologies, findings, and calculations in the report were drastically different from their historic treatment of other universities.”

The university’s statement continued:

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