Liberty University responds to local newspaper report about diversity, enrollment
Liberty University has issued a response to a June 26 News & Advance article that neglects to correctly reflect Liberty’s current enrollment figures for African American students.
While the writer noted that “Nationally, Black students made up 15% of students enrolled in colleges and universities,” citing the National Center for Education Statistics, amazingly he did not include the percentage of African Americans attending Liberty. As of Fall 2018 (the latest IPEDS data available), Liberty is trending with the national average, with 15% black enrollment and 25% minority enrollment (26% declined to report any race). In a story where so much attention was given to enrollment numbers, neglecting to provide this information from the university and only citing figures from an individual who is no longer affiliated with the school shows a disregard for accuracy. The News & Advance has proven once again that it is officially part of the fake news media.
Liberty alumnus Eric Carroll was also misquoted in the article. The article said Carroll, a 1991 graduate and a pastor in Richmond, “said he believes Liberty has purposefully allowed Black enrollment on campus to decline” and was quoted as saying, “For a university our size, we should have a lot more representation for African Americans and other ethnic minorities and we just don’t have it. And that’s by choice. I refuse to believe that it’s just that nobody wants to apply.” Carroll released this statement to Liberty University on Friday: “I read the article which came out in The News and Advance publication and wanted to set the record straight. At no time did I say that the African American and ethnic minority enrollment at Liberty was down by choice or on purpose. This is not what I said and it’s very irresponsible for someone to report this. I was asked if I believed it was done on purpose, to which I responded, ‘I don’t believe that nor could I answer that. You would have to work there to make such claim.’”
Liberty provided The News & Advance with information on June 8 that describes the university’s ongoing efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that information was not included in the article even though it is pertinent to the issue. The full information, as provided to The News & Advance, is included below:
The university remains committed to fostering diversity in its academic and professional community. In January 2018, the university formed the division of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion to lead the development and implementation of initiatives that support Liberty’s desire to have culturally and ethnically diverse students, faculty, staff, and leadership, free from all unbiblical and unlawful discrimination. In November 2018, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to advance efforts in diversity across campus.
The resolution acknowledges the centrality of “fostering a diverse, co-educational student body and an inclusive educational environment reflective of the Body of Christ” as well as the need to utilize proactive measures to recruit, retain, and support highly qualified and diverse students. The resolution also recognizes that the purpose of the Office of Equity & Inclusion is to cultivate not only a diverse student body but also “a culturally and ethnically diverse leadership team, faculty, (and) staff.”
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer Greg Dowell worked with Liberty’s attorneys to draft the resolution, and President Falwell brought it before the board for a vote. Falwell was the catalyst for the formation of the new division and remained an integral part of the adoption process for the Resolution on Equity and Inclusion.
“This resolution is an important opportunity to model diversity in higher education from a biblical perspective, and, when done right, it fits perfectly within the boundaries of the law,” Falwell said in a news release in 2018. “Liberty has always sought to provide an educational experience that celebrates the unique ways in which we all reflect the image of God, and from that understanding, to foster an environment where students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds achieve academically and grow in their faith together.”
The truth is that figures on black enrollment have been declining on average nationally over the past decade, and while Liberty has not been content to sit by as this happens, it has not been immune to the trend. Academics have theorized various reasons for the overall decline. One factor is the larger number of students declining to be identified by the narrow categories the federal government uses for tracking data, whether because the old labels don’t fit a more multiracial generation, or a generation that prefers “African American,” or because students perceive no advantage to committing to a classification. Whatever the reasons, President Falwell and Liberty University welcome students (and staff) of all races and believe the diversity initiatives of recent years and coming years will bear fruit over time.