“Even before Trump declared his candidacy, the culture of Liberty was changing to one of greater deference to Falwell and an intolerance of dissent”

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Jack Stripling of The Chronicle of Higher Education has done some of the best reporting on Liberty University’s decision to remove Jerry Falwell as president of Liberty University.

Here is a taste of his piece “The Making (And Unmaking) of Jerry Falwell Jr“:

Early on, Falwell showed an interest in academic matters, but he became ever more focused on the financial side of the university over the course of his presidency, according to a former administrator. Falwell’s relationship with Trump, such as it was, seemed to accelerate a preoccupation with money, said the administrator, who was not authorized to speak about working at Liberty and requested anonymity out of fear of retribution.

“He was moving the focus away from academics and more toward the financials, and Trump gave him an ideology to put behind that,” the administrator said.

Even before Trump declared his candidacy, the culture of Liberty was changing to one of greater deference to Falwell and an intolerance of dissent, the administrator said. Colleagues who once called the president “Jerry” started referring to him as “President Falwell,” and the reverence that had once been reserved for his father was extended to him, the administrator said.

“Jerry Jr. is no prophet,” the administrator said. “But some folks just transferred that right over to the next guy.”

Insulated from criticism within his ranks, Falwell grew more publicly political and began to cultivate a persona not unlike that of Trump, who had spoken at Liberty’s convocation in 2012. As Trump had demonstrated, a free-form, politically incorrect style played well to Liberty’s conservative students. Falwell, who had sometimes stammered or appeared to shake nervously at the podium, wanted that same kind of reaction, the administrator said, going so far as to announce on the spot that classes were canceled for the day.

“Increasingly he loved the crowds,” the administrator said. “There was a frat boy-ness about how he behaved around them.”

Falwell’s provocations, though, took a darker turn in late 2015, when, in responding to a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., he encouraged students during a convocation to acquire concealed-carry permits and indicated that he was carrying a gun in his back pocket.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed,” Falwell told the students, who were required to attend.

Later that day, in Falwell’s office, where his lieutenants had gathered for a meeting, there were awkward whispers about what had been said — right up until the moment when Falwell walked into the room, according to the administrator. The subject did not come up again.

“It was extremely tense,” the person said. “Jerry made no mention of it”

Read the entire piece here.