Liberty is accused of dismissing sexual assault complaints, retaliating against survivors, and forcing LGBT students into “conversion therapy” programs.
The Department of Education has opened an investigation into Liberty University, a private Christian college accused of mishandling sexual assault reports.
According to Inside Higher Ed, the department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating Liberty for alleged violations of the Clery Act.
The Clery Act requires universities to inform sexual assault victims that they are entitled to file reports with regular law enforcement.
The Act also obliges educational institutes to disclose crime statistics—including incidences of sexual assault—as a condition of participation in federal financial aid programs.
The Department of Education’s investigation appears to have been prompted by several lawsuits, which claimed that Liberty frequently cast the blame for sexual assault onto victims—in some cases, forcing them to undergo humiliating morality tests.
In response to the lawsuit, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) penned a letter to the Department of Education, asking them to look into survivors’ stories and claims.
“There is starting to be a kind of pattern of allegations by students at Liberty, that they were subjected to sexual assault or sexual harassment, and then the university did not cooperate with them or help them pursues justice,” Kaine said. “And, in some instances, the students are claiming the matters are either swept under the rug or even discouraged from coming forward with these kinds of serious claims.”
One law firm, representing a woman who has filed suit against Liberty, said that the university was aware of their client’s complaint—but never initiated an investigation, took disciplinary action, or put any protective measures in place.
Liberty, the law firm said, “systematically demonstrated deliberate indifference, retaliated against Jane Doe, and perpetuated the sexually hostile and dangerous environment on and around campus.”
However, Liberty faces accusations beyond indifference to sexual assault.
The Religious Exemption Accountability Project, for instance, filed a separate lawsuit suggesting that Liberty subjected non-heterosexual students to “rampant discrimination, abuse and mistreatment.”
Luke Wilson, a former Liberty University student and plaintiff in a REAP-led lawsuit, said he is “delighted” that the college is finally being investigated by the federal government.
Wilson, says Inside Higher Ed, said that Liberty forced him and other LGBTQ students to undergo “conversion therapy” as a condition of
“I am beyond delighted that Liberty is [finally] being investigated for its conversion therapy program—a program that was in operation for over a decade,” Wilson said. “As a survivor of Liberty’s one-on-one conversion therapy program and as one who went to one of the group conversion therapy meetings on campus, I have since worked to raise awareness about this heinous practice that has ravaged the lives of countless queer Liberty students.”
Sen. Kaine, for his part, said he is pleased that the Department of Investigation responded to his request—and those of survivors—to hold Liberty accountable for any potential wrongdoing.
“I’m glad the Department of Education is investigating Liberty’s handling of sexual assault. I hope the Department looks into it thoroughly,” Kaine said in a statement. “As I’ve said, any campus policy that deters or discourages a survivor of sexual assault from speaking out and seeking justice is wrong. Students who bravely speak out deserve to be heard and to have their claims taken seriously.”