May 6, 2020 : By Office of Communications & Public Engagement
The last day of final exams on Tuesday signaled the official end of the 2019-20 academic year for Liberty University’s students. All residence halls closed at noon on Wednesday as previously scheduled with an impressive health record amid the Coronavirus threats.
Closing out a year that brought unexpected changes that affected every member of the Liberty community, President Jerry Falwell applauded students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday for rising to the occasion.
“We finished this year strong — maybe even stronger than ever before because of the hard work of our administration, faculty, staff, and students who pushed through the challenges that this pandemic caused and never quit safely serving our students,” Falwell said. “Liberty University created the model that other universities should follow for pandemics by protecting its students, faculty, and staff from COVID cases in the local community. We are thankful to God that nobody who lived in a campus residence hall or who worked in a campus office tested positive for the virus.”
Falwell said he was pleased with the results of the campus working together to serve and protect the community at the same time. “No positive COVID-19 test anywhere in our region was linked to Liberty students who returned to their dorm rooms after Spring Break. The only COVID cases in the University community were employees working from home or offices off-campus and their infections were all traced to contacts in the local community with persons infected with COVID who were not related to Liberty.” Further, he added, no students or employees who were directed to quarantine as preventative measures have exhibited any symptoms of COVID-19, and those who were tested all tested negative.
When COVID-19 restrictions were ordered for Virginia, the university became the subject of several misleading national news reports after it announced plans to move all residential classes online and keep campus open following Spring Break in order to provide safe and reliable accommodations for the small percentage of students who chose to return. Many of those students did not have another safe place to live, did not otherwise have access to high-speed internet to continue their education, did not want to potentially endanger elderly relatives, or were international students without a choice to travel to their home countries.
Although other universities took similar actions and all Liberty University operations were continuously found to be in compliance with state restrictions, Liberty was regularly singled out in thousands of negative media stories.
“The New York Times intentionally misled the public and over 750 other media outlets to create the impression that COVID infections were brought to Liberty by my leaving our campus open to students and not closing,” Falwell said. “We plan to proceed with our lawsuit against the Times, in addition to cooperating in the ongoing prosecution of media representatives who trespassed and disregarded our health measures designed to protect the campus from non-essential persons.”
The university has moved all summer intensive courses (with the exception of EXSC 511 and 551) to a digital format. A small number of mostly international students will be housed on campus during the summer term, as has always been the summer practice at Liberty.
For now, Falwell said the administration is focusing on plans to reopen fully with residential classes in the fall and is busy making special plans to honor the Class of 2020 at Commencement, postponed to Sept. 11-12. Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
“We’re looking forward to having the Liberty family back together again and welcoming new students into our family. This year’s high school seniors have missed out on so many special moments, and we are excited to have them here to start making memories for the next chapter of their life,” Falwell said. “And for our own seniors this year, Commencement is going to be a special occasion in a lot of ways. We hope the families will all come back for the degree presentation ceremonies and celebrate with us at our first home football game of the season. It will be a special weekend to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2020 in the best way we have left to honor them in light of the Governor’s restrictions.”