WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Liberty University received its students back to school this week, despite social distancing measures set by the state.
- The university president was blasted with criticism and facing removal petition for his decision to accommodate the students amidst rising concern over the coronavirus outbreak.
- The latest data showed that Virginia state had 290 cases and at least six people killed because of COVID-19.
Notwithstanding backlash to its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, opened its gates for student returnees on Monday.
According to the university spokesperson, Scott Lamb, no less than 1,100 students went back from spring break, and Falwell Jr. said he interacted with several of them.
Through a statement posted on the university news service, Falwell said that the students are happy to be back, and he even quipped with the youngsters to enjoy the college premises.
Meanwhile, writing on an opinion column posted on Religious News Service and published online by The Washington Post, one university professor claimed that Falwell’s move was lacking concern, and it could put the staff, faculty, and other people in the city of Lynchburg at danger because of COVID-19.
Also, an online petition seeking the replacement of the university president is circulating online, criticizing Falwell for allegedly taking the outbreak lightly.
Considered as one of the largest private evangelical Christian university in the world, Liberty houses a total of 100,000 students. The U.S. News & World Report also states that about 46,000 of the students are undergraduates.
The university estimates that about 57 percent of Liberty University’s students reside on the campus.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared on March 23 that all K-12 schools situated in the state would be closed down at least until the end of the school year. The governor, who is also a doctor, said that the move is necessary to ensure the spread of coronavirus will be minimized.
Upon the announcement, students of the university went back to their campus.
As of Tuesday, the state of Virginia had 290 people tested positive for COVID-19, six casualties, and confined at least 45 individuals.
Following the criticisms, Falwell said through a statement that the move allowing the students to return to the school grounds was seriously discussed with his executive team, and measures were also factored in once the students return to their dorms.
The decision also ables the university to provide accommodations for their international students who were stranded in the country and those who take public transportation going home.
Gov. Norham implemented a ten customer limit in dining areas, and Falwell said the school’s service provider is complying with the guideline.
Meanwhile, the online appeal demanding Falwell to be removed has already reached 11,242 supporters, only a few thousands short of the 15,000 signatures target. The petition was posted on Faithful America, an online platform for Christian communities advocating social justice.
Reacting to the petition, Falwell explained that the university was closely coordinating with health authorities daily. He also thought that those who were not in favor of the decision should have gone to the institution’s HR instead of the media.