Advocates for victims of sexual assault at Liberty University announced that the school’s president, Jerry Prevo ,, agreed to request Friday’s independent investigation into the school’s handling of assault cases.
The announcement, which originally stated that the Rev. Jonathan Falwell , Campus pastor, had promised to investigate — was made at a Lynchburg news conference, Virginia, ahead of a Thursday evening “rally/prayer” on the school campus.
Prevo assured students at convocation this week that Liberty would address their concerns fully and openly.
” I can assure you that we won’t try to hide anything. We’re going back and having the matter investigated. We’ll also correct any wrongdoings that we make. He told students, “I’m not here for coverup.”
Karen Swallow Prior is a Liberty University English professor. She left the school last school year and is now part of the group calling to reform the school. Liberty, she stated at the press conference that it would cease to be God’s university if the institution’s interests are overshadowed by the stewardship .”
Attorney, former gymnast Rachel Denhollander also spoke. She was the first victim of Larry Nassar’s assault at Michigan State University. Although she is not a Liberty alumna Ms. Denhollander, an evangelical author and speaker has been active in supporting “Jane Doe”, students who have reported being abused at the school.
“What’s happening today isn’t an attempt to dismantle this institution but is rather coming with the hope this institution will remain true to its core values,” said Ms. Denhollander.
The Thursday news conference, streamed online via Facebook and broadcast live by at least one local television station in the central Virginia city, was billed as a prelude to the on-campus event promised by organizers of “Save71,” a group of Liberty students and alumni, and “Justice for Janes,” a group that says it supports the 22 plaintiffs involved in a class-action suit against the university.
There was some doubt that Liberty, which views its campus as private property and restricts access to other activists like Soulforce, would allow an on-campus demonstration. The school had previously stated that no application or approval for an event on campus was made.
On Thursday afternoon, the school released a letter for prospective rally participants that said in part, “We sincerely welcome your intercession for our community, and there are places where you can meet adjacent to the campus that do not require approval from Liberty University.”
The school said, “Just let me know where you’d like to go, and it would be our sincere delight to provide you with some refreshment while you meet there .”
Video from the Save71 Facebook page indicated a gathering did take place. At the event, Mr. Prevo could be seen talking with a local ABC TV affiliate.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Rev. Jonathan Falwell only relayed information from Liberty University President Jerry Prevo regarding the independent investigation. A statement at the Save71 group’s news conference omitted Mr. Prevo’s involvement. Rev. Falwell’s title as campus pastor.