Liberty University is Open. Local Lynchburg Officials are Not Happy About It

Liberty Campus

Liberty University

The students are having “quarantine parties” off campus.

Here is the Associated Press:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Officials in Lynchburg, Virginia, said Tuesday they were fielding complaints about the hundreds of students who have returned from their spring break to Liberty University, where President Jerry Falwell Jr. has welcomed them back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We could not be more disappointed in the action that Jerry took in telling students they could come back and take their online classes on campus,” Lynchburg City Manager Bonnie Svrcek told The Associated Press…

Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said about 1,100 students were back on campus as of Tuesday morning. He said a former hotel the university owns is available as a quarantine site if needed and tents have been set up “preventatively” as a place to direct any student on campus who might feel ill…

Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy said in a statement that she thought the university’s decision to allow students to return was “reckless.”

“I am concerned for the students, faculty and employees at Liberty University, and I am also very concerned for the residents of the Lynchburg community,” she said.

Liberty’s decision also prompted an unusually critical and public dissent from a faculty member. Faculty members, most of whom do not have tenure, frequently decline interview requests from AP and other news outlets.

“It is unconscionable that the leadership of the university is fully implementing Falwell’s politically motivated and rash policy that unnecessarily risks an unmanageable outbreak here in Lynchburg,” Marybeth Davis Baggett, a professor of English, wrote in an opinion piece published by Religion News Service and The Washington Post.

Baggett wrote that faculty had been told to conduct classes from their offices, even though that instruction was being delivered virtually. And she said professors were “expected to hold office hours and welcome students for face-to-face interaction.”

The university’s news release said Liberty’s human resources department has been processing requests from employees with health problems that put them at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and “making accommodations as appropriate.”

Falwell tweeted a link to the release Monday and said, in part, “Bet the ‘Baggett’ lady is embarrassed now!”

Some Liberty students raised concerns about their classmates’ behavior. In interviews, they described “quarantine” parties happening off campus, as well as large gatherings of students, including meetups to play sports or share meals.

“I would say it’s an exception to see someone do the right thing,” said Alexa Whaley, a junior from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who said she went home over spring break and returned because of her job at a local law firm.

Read the rest here.

Is the Falwell tweet referenced in this article a play on the word “bag lady?” (See our post on Marybeth Baggett’s criticism of Liberty here).  What does it say about the state of American evangelicalism that this man leads one of the world’s largest evangelical universities? What does it say about American evangelicalism that so many evangelical young people (and their parents) choose to study at a school led by this man?

Let’s also remember, again, that not all Christian colleges are the same.