October 26, 2021 : By Office of the President
Dear Liberty University Community,
I’m aware of a significant amount of media coverage over the last 24 hours regarding a Title IX lawsuit filed against the university earlier this year.
The media attention was not the product of any new information related to the lawsuit but prompted in part by a terminated employee who falsely alleges that the university under my leadership has attempted to mishandle the allegations made in the lawsuit.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
On the very day the Jane Doe lawsuit was filed, I requested the university issue the following public comment,
The allegations in the Jane Doe 1-12 v. Liberty University lawsuit are deeply troubling, if they turn out to be true. Many of the claims are the complete opposite of how the University’s policies and procedures were designed to operate over the years. Liberty has invested mightily in programs and personnel to help maintain a safe campus and to support any and all victims of sexual assault that came forward. Liberty has a robust non-discrimination policy, which includes an amnesty policy to encourage victims to make reports without fearing that their involvement in other activities like drinking alcohol or extramarital sex will be disciplined under the student honor code. That policy includes a fair process for resolving disputes about rape, sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation, as well as providing supportive measures as appropriate. It would be heartbreaking if those efforts had the results claimed in this lawsuit. We will immediately look into each of these claims to determine what needs to be done to make things right, if they turn out to be true. Because the claims are made anonymously and go back many years, in one case over two decades, it will take some time to sort through.
Later, when Liberty University’s residential students began to express their own concern about the allegations in the lawsuit, I stood myself in front of the Convocation audience and directly addressed their concerns by saying, “We want you to feel safe. We don’t want any sexual harassment or sexual abuse. I don’t, and I’ve told the department that deals with that. I said, ‘You take every complaint seriously, and you deal with it seriously.”
You can watch my comments on a local news story which reported that “a student-led movement to raise awareness about sexual misconduct is getting support from Liberty University’s president.”
What I have not disclosed publicly before is that on the same day the lawsuit was filed I also sent a message to my senior team at the university.
In that message I encouraged every member of the team to actually read the legal claim made against the university, and I wrote, “These 12 anonymous plaintiffs were all women, and they were mostly former Liberty students or employees. In addition to their general claims that Liberty violated Title IX by being deliberately indifferent toward sexual harassment and creating an unsafe environment, there are several specific allegations that really disturbed me. I am not going to repeat those allegations here, but you can read a copy of the complaint when you get a chance. I hope and pray these allegations turn out to be false. Discrimination against victims of sexual assault because of their gender and engaging in sexual harassment are contrary to our Christian faith and mission, and have absolutely no place at Liberty. It would be heartbreaking if, despite all of Liberty’s efforts to provide a safe campus community and develop sound Title IX policies, those terrible things still occurred here. If true, though, I assure you we will make things right.”
I went on, “I greatly appreciate each and every one of you and the important work you and your teams are doing to promote Title IX compliance and campus safety, as well as to hold offenders responsible. Please don’t be discouraged by this lawsuit or allow it to distract you from the essential work that you’re doing. Liberty has a very robust Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy, and you should continue to focus on implementing its policies and procedures in a fair manner. Also, continue to provide supportive measures to all those who need them. I want you to know that you have my full and unwavering support. I take this seriously and want to be sure you understand that I need you and every member of your team to take it just as seriously. Regardless of what’s found, we will get through this and use it as an opportunity to learn where we can become even better.”
I want to make something clear, as I did on the day the lawsuit was filed, as I did in my email to my team on the same day, as I did in Convocation to the student body this fall and in this note to you: Liberty University will not tolerate Title IX violations, sexual abuse or sexual assault in any form at any time.
With regard to accusations about the mishandling of Title IX in the past, there is an appropriate legal process to address those concerns in order to protect alleged victims and alleged accusers. We are embracing that legal process for the good of our institution but especially for all of those involved in these allegations.
I also want to be clear on one additional point, intermingled in the stories related to the Title IX lawsuit are criticisms about Liberty University’s code of conduct (“The Liberty Way”). As repeatedly mentioned above, The Liberty Way should never be misused to cover up wrongdoing. It is also the case that as a Christian university we will remain unwavering in our commitment to cultivating a culture in our Liberty community that honors God’s Word and embraces God’s principles for life. While “The Liberty Way” must never be used to discourage victims from reporting wrongdoing, we also believe that we do not have to choose between embracing our code of conduct as a Christian university and in complying with our legal Title IX obligations. We can do both at the same time, and we will do so.
I hope you’ll join me in praying for a just and righteous outcome to this latest challenge. Despite all of this, we have much to praise God for at Liberty University.
We are especially grateful for the strength of Liberty University’s recommitment to its original mission and vision, our record enrollment, and the commitment of thousands of Liberty University graduates to reach the world with the Gospel in their generation. It is an honor to serve as your president.
— Jerry Prevo