Despite Pressure From Some Faculty and Staff, Liberty University Remains Open

15a8d-libertyApparently this piece did not do the trick.

Here is the latest from the local Lynchburg paper:

As the coronavirus threatens to spread across the Lynchburg region, Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students from spring break this week.

Defying a national trend of campus closures, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has invited students to return to residence halls and has directed faculty members to continue to report to campus even as most classes move online.

In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.

“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,” Falwell said.

Falwell’s decision leaves Liberty as an outlier among the scores of colleges and universities across the country that have shut down to help limit the spread of the disease known as COVID-19.

The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died.

In response to the pandemic, several nearby institutions have instructed faculty to work remotely and have limited dorms to students unable to return home. At the University of Lynchburg, 19 students continue to live in dorms while at Randolph College just five remain on campus.

In contrast with other schools, Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center remain open.

The university has taken some steps to help slow the virus’ spread. Gatherings in campus buildings, including a handful of classes still holding in-person meetings, are capped at 10 people in accordance with an order by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Similarly, dining halls are only providing take-out service, and campus visits have been suspended.

On Monday, Northam directed all non-essential businesses to close by the start of Wednesday. Non-essential services were identified as all places of indoor public amusement as well as fitness centers, and salons that cannot comply with social distancing guidelines. It is unclear how that order will affect Liberty.

Falwell, who has publicly downplayed the threat of the virus in recent weeks, said he is confident the school has taken the proper steps to prepare for a campus outbreak. He said Liberty officials have identified an old hotel owned by the university as a place to quarantine students who fall ill.

“I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”

Some Liberty faculty members have questioned whether Falwell’s actions have gone far enough.

Read the entire piece at the Lynchburg News & Advance.