Students and alumni plan to converge on the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus of Liberty University Thursday to demand administrators take more aggressive action on sex-assault complaints.
The “rally and prayer event,” as organizers termed it, will take place 10 days after Scott Lamb, former chief spokesman for the school, sued alleging he was fired for criticizing the evangelical Christian university’s response to assault accusations and lawsuits.
It will also be held one day after the school’s president made a promise to students that they would be safer and more able to report any sexual assault without fear of reprisals.
Jerry Prevo, who took the top post last year after then-president Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned in a scandal, told a student convocation earlier Wednesday, “If we’ve messed up as a university in the last few years, we’re going to do our best to make it right and not cover up.”
Rachel Denhollander is a survivor from sexual abuse by Michigan State University doctor Larry Nasar and is now an attorney. She will address a press conference on-campus prior to the rally, organizers stated. She will be joined by Southeastern Baptist Seminary English professor Karen Swallow Prior, who taught at Liberty for 21 years before leaving last year.
Dustin Wahl, a 2018 Liberty graduate who leads a group called “Save71” composed of students and alumni seeking reforms, said the protest is designed to help the school and will chiefly consist of students and alumni.
Campus security has rebuffed previous attempts to hold on-campus gatherings of dissidents, such as an announcement from Soulforce (a liberal Christian group), but they were thwarted.
Contacted Wednesday night by The Washington Times, a school spokesperson stated that Liberty University’s policy was that campus activities were reserved for residential students and faculty, as well as administration. Liberty University allows demonstrations that have been planned in advance and for which space has been requested and reserved. Organized demonstrations off campus, or near to campus, must go through Lynchburg authorities.”
Another Liberty professor Karen Swallow Prior confirmed that the school can restrict or ban unauthorized demonstrations in a telephone interview.
“Liberty University, a private university, and its property are private,” Ms. Prior stated. “There have been threats to arrest other people who have come to prayer or hold rallies. This is the standard operating procedure .”
Mr. Wahl stated that he is looking for a different outcome Thursday.
” We are hopeful that they realize that our comments will be made in good faith and that they don’t react to us. What we’re calling for will be really good for Liberty,” he said in a telephone interview, asserting “accountability is good for the institution that is held accountable.”
Mr. Wahl said, “We have been asking for the school’s to conduct an independent, thorough investigation into the [abuse], allegations that have been made over a period of time, and in doing so publicly as well as through private channels .”
He said the Save71 group — the number refers to 1971, the year Liberty University was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. — has not received a response from school to their requests but “the board and most of the Liberty leaders are well aware that the late Rev.
In his Wednesday remarks, Mr. Provo stated that the school would not sanction students who violate “The Liberty Way,” a code governing student conduct.
“You are not going to be disciplined for that if you come [forward], and you have a legitimate complaint that you have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, dating domestic violence, you’re going to have what we call amnesty,” Mr. Prevo said.
He said the school is going to install “blue boxes” at locations around campus that will connect victims reporting an assault with campus security via video call. Police and medical aid can be dispatched to one of the box locations, he said.
“I authorized about $8.5 million dollars to do this,” Mr. Prevo added. “We are serious about making Liberty University safe for all .”
Mr. Prevo said the school was going to review previous accusations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence involving the school, which has an on-campus student population of 15,000.
” I can assure you that we won’t try to hide anything. We’ll look back and have it investigated. We’ll also correct any mistakes we make. I’m not here to cover up,” he declared.
A total of 22 students and former students sued Liberty University this year, alleging the school did not properly respond to reports of sexual assault or tell students they had the right to report such attacks to the local municipal police force.
Correction: This article has been revised to identify a protest organizer as Dustin Wahl.