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Liberty University fined a record $14 million for failing to report on-campus crimes

The U.S. Department of Education fined Liberty University $14 million. Associated Press/Photo by Steve Helber

Liberty University fined a record $14 million for failing to report on-campus crimes

The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday published a report accusing the school of failing to comply with federal requirements for reporting crime. The department also claimed the Christian university effectively discouraged the reporting of sexual assaults by punishing several victims for violating the student honor code while their attackers were “left unpunished.” The 108-page report also found that the school did not have the administrative capability to properly track, document, and report annual crime statistics. According to the report, Liberty also failed to issue emergency alerts and campus warnings.

How has the university responded? While the school agreed to pay the fines, officials claimed the Education Department’s extensive investigation was unfair and different from previous university investigations. “While Liberty has not always agreed with its treatment by the department, we concur that numerous compliance deficiencies existed in the past,” Liberty University President Dondi Costin said in a released statement.

How is this fine significant? The $14 million fine is the largest ever levied under the Clery Act. In addition to paying the fine, the Education Department’s agreement with Liberty requires the school to set aside an additional $2 million in funds for new campus safety improvements. The university will also be subject to a two-year monitoring period.

How was the investigation conducted? The investigation stemmed from a 2021 lawsuit filed by former Liberty students and employees who accused the school of making it difficult to report sexual violence. Liberty University settled a settlement with the plaintiffs in May 2022.

The Department of Education investigation reviewed school records from 2016 through 2022 and found that it did not have adequate resources to investigate complaints. The school failed to meet the requirements outlined by the Clery Act, which mandates that colleges participating in federal student aid programs must disclose campus crime and safety data.

The school said it had already invested more than $10 million in campus safety improvements, including increased staffing, education, and implementing new policies and procedures. Liberty also rolled out a mobile app that shares on-campus safety warnings and provides users with security resources, according to the school.

Dig deeper: From the archives, read Esther Eaton’s report on how Moody Bible Institute promised to change its policies for responding to sexual abuse after complaints.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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