Liberty University to Pay Record $14 Million Fine for Violating Clery Act

The U.S. Department of Education’s 102-page letter listed numerous ways the university violated the Clery Act and harmed sexual assault victims.

Liberty University to Pay Record $14 Million Fine for Violating Clery Act

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The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday fined Liberty University $14 million over its violations of the federal Clery Act and its handling of sexual assault allegations. The school also agreed to spend $2 million to improve on-campus safety over the next two years.

The penalty is the largest Clery fine in history, dwarfing the Department’s $4.5 million fine in 2019 against Michigan State University over its systemic failure to address claims of sexual abuse committed by former sports doctor Larry Nassar.

The review by the Department of Education was prompted by complaints in 2022 that the Christian college violated the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990. It also followed a 2021 lawsuit filed against Liberty University by 12 female students and employees who alleged the school fostered a climate that increased the chances of sexual violence.

Liberty University Clery Act Violations

The Department found that Liberty University “failed to develop and implement an adequate Clery Act compliance program during the years under review.” The school failed to:

  1. implement an adequate system of internal controls to properly report, investigate, and adjudicate crime, including acts of sexual misconduct;
  2. issue Timely Warnings to advise the campus community about criminal activity that may have posed a significant or ongoing threat;
  3. issue Emergency Notifications to advise the campus community about emergencies or dangerous situations that may have posed a threat to health or safety;
  4. compile and disclose accurate and complete crime statistics in its Annual Security Reports (ASRs) and in its reporting to the Department;
  5. implement an adequate system to create, manage, retain and retrieve relevant crime and conduct records in accordance with Federal requirements;
  6. identify institutional officials who met the definition of a Campus Security Authority (CSA) and adequately notify them of their reporting obligations;
  7. prevent retaliation against whistleblowers and other persons trying to ensure compliance with the Clery Act;
  8. develop and implement required campus safety and crime prevention policies and procedures; and
  9. properly identify its buildings and properties in order to categorize them in accordance with Clery Geography definitions.

The review found that Liberty’s police department only had one officer with little oversight and who was responsible for investigating crimes. This led to numerous cases where the investigative processes resulted in the misclassification and underreporting of Clery offenses. Several incidents were improperly categorized as unfounded.

The Department provided the following example of the school’s improper categorization and handling of a case:

“A victim reported that she was raped. The victim stated that in furtherance of the attack, the perpetrator slapped her, pulled her hair, and threatened her by reminding her that he carried a knife. The perpetrator also engaged in coercive, intimidating, and manipulative behaviors. Despite these reported facts, the investigator unfounded this case based on a claim that the “victim indicates that she consented to the sexual act.” In point of fact, the victim’s own statement merely indicated that she “gave in” in an attempt to get away from the perpetrator. To state the obvious, “consent” acquired by threat or force is no consent at all. To make matters worse, it is now clear that the initial report was mishandled by an LUPD officer, and in that process, the investigator, and the LUPD at large, failed to gather more information about two other incidents of sexual assault reported by the victim.”

The review also found that numerous victims of sexual assault were reluctant to speak up about their assaults because of fear of reprisal. Several victims were punished for violating the student code of conduct known as “The Liberty Way,” while their assailants were left unpunished.

“Consequently, victims of sexual assault often felt dissuaded by Liberty administration’s reputation for punishing sexual assault survivors rather than helping them,” the review found. “Such fears created a culture of silence where sexual assaults commonly went unreported. In addition, several whistleblower faculty members who spoke up about the University’s failure to fix the problem of fear of reprisal among sexual assault victims were intimidated or terminated in retaliation for speaking up. This has resulted in a systemic apprehension among Liberty’s workforce about raising employee concerns about the University’s treatment of sexual assault victims and other campus safety-related issues.”

This latest review by the Department isn’t the first time it has deemed Liberty University to be in violation of the Clery Act. Back in 2010, the Department of Educated reviewed allegations by a sexual assault survivor and found that the school had violated numerous provisions of the Clery Act as the law existed at that time. The current review found that Liberty University failed to initiate and sustain remedial action on the Department’s 2010 findings.

Although the report said the college has made some progress recently, the Department said it will continue to monitor the university’s efforts.

“The need for such monitoring is evident based on the institution’s inability and/or unwillingness to take effective remedial action as it claimed it would back in 2010.”

The lengthy letter to Liberty University outlining the Department of Education’s findings is 102 pages long and covers the requirements for the school to develop new policies and procedures, address its VAWA violations, provide support to victims of sexual violence, provide CSA training, accurately collect and report crime statistics, appropriately disseminate Timely Warnings and Emergency Notifications, define Clery geography, and more.

Read the Letter.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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One response to “Liberty University to Pay Record $14 Million Fine for Violating Clery Act”

  1. Sgt. Jeff Weiss, Ret. says:

    I live here in Lynchburg, the home of Liberty U. and am not surprised to hear of this fine. The university follows the lead of their disgraced President. And once again, these offenses and/or complaints should have been reported to local police authorities. It begins to look like the Cleary act creates an environment in which victims believe the correct course of action is to depend on their schools to take necessary and appropriate actions in these situations. While I have no objections to students and faculty reporting alleged criminal actions to campus authorities I do not believe doing so is a substitute for reporting complaints to local police authorities. I think it also likely that had these events been reported to local authorities the school administrators would have been less likely to cover up or ignore the events.

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