In the wake of reports alleging objectionable rhetoric and conduct by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., students at the evangelical Christian school plan to call for internal and external investigations into the president and administration at a protest on campus Friday (Sept. 13).
“We are not calling for Falwell to resign right now,” said Elizabeth Brooks, a sophomore at the school and the main organizer of the student protest. But in a mission statement Brooks wrote, she stated that the official position of the demonstration is to “bring to light the truth of these allegations of various misconduct.”
Brooks did not elaborate on the allegations, only stating that the protest comes in response to an article by Brandon Ambrosino that appeared in Politico this week that quotes current and former members of Falwell’s “inner circle” describing Liberty as a “dictatorship” and more of a “real estate hedge fund” than a university.
The article portrayed Falwell bragging about his sex life with employees, attending a nightclub and later denying it, claiming photos of him at the club were altered. He is also accused in the article of dealing university contracts to friends and family.
Some of the allegations had been reported in other outlets over the past few months, but after the most recent revelations, described as based on emails and interviews with Falwell aides and employees, Brooks and her fellow student Ian Parish, who is assisting with the protest’s efforts, said they have seen a shift in the student body against Falwell that hasn’t been seen in the school’s recent history.
“The mood is changing from ‘We wish Jerry would keep quiet’ to ‘We wish we had better representation for our school,’” Parish said. “Jerry doesn’t have our best interests at heart. He doesn’t share Liberty’s mission statement to train champions for Christ.”
Falwell and Liberty University declined to respond to requests for comments about the protest.
Brooks and Parish, whom Falwell has blocked on Twitter for his repeated criticism, said that they anticipate a turnout of no more than two dozen students, but since announcing the protest, they have seen a broader response from students on social media.
“LU students, we cannot stand for this anymore,” wrote Rachel Mayer, who goes to the school, on Twitter. Eric McGowan, who called himself “another proud alumni,” cautioned, “Watch out for LUPD (Liberty University Police Department). They have been used by admin to … harass past efforts similar to this led by me and my friends.”
Parish said a showing of 60 or more students would be a significant turnout.
Shortly after the protest was announced Thursday morning, Brooks said that she met with student members of the Student Government Association to talk about it. In prior protests students have planned on campus, the SGA has pressured protesting students to cancel demonstrations in favor of remedial solutions.
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Source: Religion News Service