Liberty University
liberty_univ_edited

Liberty University fined $14 million for violations of campus safety laws

March 5, 2024
The U.S. Department of Education imposed the fine for the university's failure to follow Clery Act provisions regarding crime reporting and notifying students of threats.

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has agreed to pay a record $14 million fine for violations of federal campus safety laws.

The U.S. Department of Education says its settlement agreement with Liberty stems from the university’s “material and ongoing violations” of the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to collect data on campus crime and notify students of threats.

The fine is the largest ever imposed for violating the Clery Act, which requires institutions to provide important information about public safety issues to students, parents, employees, prospective students and employees, and the public postsecondary schools participating in the federal student aid programs.

 As a part of the settlement, Liberty has agreed to spend $2 million over the next two years for on-campus safety improvements and compliance enhancements. The Education Department will conduct post-review monitoring of Liberty through April 2026 to ensure that the school carries out the promised improvements.

In February 2022, the Education Department’s office of Federal Student Aid notified Liberty that it would look into Liberty’s compliance with the Clery Act compliance. Several complaints alleged the university had engaged in a pattern of conduct that reflected serious violations of the Clery Act.

The report issued on Tuesday (March 5) upholds 11 findings:

  • Finding 1: Lack of administrative capability  Liberty substantially failed to develop and implement an adequate Clery Act compliance program between 2016 and 2023 and did not meet its regulatory responsibilities in numerous and serious ways. Liberty failed to: 1) provide accurate and complete informational disclosures; 2) comply with a number of sexual violence prevention and response requirements, 3) issue timely warnings to advise the campus community about criminal activity that may have posed a significant or ongoing threat; 4) issue emergency notifications to advise the campus community about emergencies or dangerous situations.
  • Finding 2: Inaccurate and incomplete informational disclosures  In its Annual Security Report, Liberty failed to develop and implement required statements about campus safety and crime prevention policy, procedure, practice, and programs and include accurate and complete informational.

  • Finding 3: Failure to comply with Violence Against Women Act– Liberty failed to comply with numerous sexual violence prevention and response requirements of the Clery Act, such as providing victims of sexual violence with appropriate notice of their rights and options, and deficiencies in the investigatory and adjudicative process.
  • Finding 4: Failure to identify and notify campus security authorities and to establish an adequate system for collecting crime statistics from all required sources  Liberty failed to effectively collect required statistics for incidents of crimes reported to campus security authorities, failed to include them in its campus crime statistics, and failed to identify and notify campus security authorities of their obligations.
  • Finding 5: Failure to properly classify and disclose crime statistics – Liberty failed to compile and publish accurate and complete crime statistics for calendar years 2016 to 2021.

  • Finding 6: Failure to issue emergency notifications in accordance with federal regulations – Liberty knowingly and repeatedly failed to issue the required emergency notifications to advise the campus community about emergencies and other dangerous conditions.
  • Finding 7: Failure to issue timely warnings in accordance with federal regulations  The Clery Act and Department regulations require schools to issue timely warnings to the entire campus community to inform students and employees about Clery reportable crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees. These warnings must be issued whenever such crimes are reported to a campus security authority, but Liberty failed to do so.
  • Finding 8: Failure to maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log –Schools with a police or campus security department must maintain a written, easily understood daily crime log that lists all crimes that occurred (1) on campus, including residence halls; (2) in non-campus buildings or on non-campus property; (3) on public property within the campus or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus; or (4) within the boundaries of the campus police or security department’s patrol zone. Liberty failed to maintain accurate and complete daily crime logs throughout the review period.
  • Finding 9: Failure to define Clery geography in accordance with federal regulations  Liberty did not properly apply the geographical definitions of the Clery Act, which involves identifying all buildings and properties within its “Clery Geography.” Thus, Liberty did not properly compile and report accurate crime .
  • Finding 10: Failure to comply with Title IV record retention – Liberty failed to retain the required records necessary to establish its compliance with the Clery Act. The failure to retain these compromised the Education Department's ability to conduct required oversight and monitoring.  
  • Finding 11: Failure to publish and distribute Annual Security Report in accordance with federal regulations – In four years, from 2018 through 2021, Liberty failed to distribute the revised version of the institution’s Annual Security Report. 

“The $14 million fine and other remedial actions imposed in this settlement reflect the serious and longstanding nature of Liberty’s violations, which undermined campus safety for students, faculty, and staff,” the Education Department says in a news release. “The settlement also takes into account current Liberty administration’s prompt acknowledgment of almost all the violations identified in the program review report, and its demonstrated commitment to remedying them.”

 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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