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“”This is a school you flunk out of when you get the answers right.
Liberty University is a fundamentalist Christian "university" founded by the late Jerry Falwell. The university was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. The name was changed to Liberty Baptist College in 1976 before settling on its current name, Liberty University, in 1984. From the elder Falwell's death in 2007 until 2020, the university was run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. The younger Falwell came under increasing scrutiny because of a variety of scandals involving corruption, questionable business deals and a decidedly un-Christian lifestyle, and resigned in disgrace. Liberty was also the site of a major COVID-19 disease outbreak.
The name is reminiscent of Orwellian doublethink (Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Love, et cetera), since Liberty University students do not have the liberty to attend dances, break curfew, view sexually explicit material, enter the bedroom of someone of the opposite sex, or otherwise exhibit behavior "associated with a counterculture."[note 1] Students may not drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or organize petitions without permission, and are also subjected to random, mandatory drug tests. This restrictive code of conduct is aptly called the "Liberty Way". No joke intended. Academic posts are entirely non-tenured so the authorities can control staff as well. Falwell has said, "Where tenure is practiced, eventually theistic evolution is taught." The resulting facepalms could be heard for miles.
Despite their lack of academic credentials, their debate team appears to be one of the highest ranked in the nation. In reality Liberty University notch up points by debating small colleges where they can win. LU rarely debate the tough opponents like Harvard and when they do they tend to lose. They sponsor their debate team in order to create the lawyers that they hope will argue against Roe v. Wade.
The seal of Liberty depicts a book with a "tongue of fire" atop it and the motto "Knowledge Aflame." This is either the most unintentionally hilarious image ever, or evidence that they intend on destroying all knowledge they disagree with; skeptics are not allowed close enough with their irony meters to get an accurate reading. Then again, the image of a book on fire does call to mind historical book burnings, so the seal might not be so ironic after all, in a way.
Liberty University has become a $1 billion enterprise chiefly from its profitable online university, which uses high pressure sales to recruit veterans and other vulnerable people. In 2017, Liberty's assets surpassed $2.5 billion, mostly from the expansion of their online empire.
Liberty University offers a wide variety of academic programs and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) to award degrees through the Doctorate level. However, pseudoscience and pseudohistory are thoroughly integrated with legitimate courses of study. For example, a course called "History of Life" presenting Young Earth Creationism as fact is required for all undergraduate students. The course is run by the university's Center for Creation Studies and purports to "draw from science, religion, history, and philosophy in presenting the evidence and arguments for creation and against evolution." The Center for Creation Studies appears to be a business front for pseudoscientist David DeWitt, whose "History of Life Course ePack" is a required text for the course.
In 2005 Liberty University opened a School of Aeronautics that claims to be "the largest faith-based aviation program in North America." It is now entirely possible that the person flying your commercial flight actually believes the Earth is 6,000 years old. Liberty also recycles things on campus, so it is entirely possible that your recycled glass countertop was once a Starbucks bottle held by some perky blonde who actually thinks nationalism is a good idea. Also LU offers an Osteopathic Medical school, with a startup grant provided by the Virginia Tobacco Commission, so it is also possible for your doctor to believe the bible is a literal history book. Thankfully that is very unlikely as they are currently ranked 825th in the nation for a medical education and 508th for research. US News and World Reports ranked it #80 for the Southern region in 2014. This doesn't seem bad until you realize the list ends at 93.
It is often hard to find data on the university since it has traditionally been very secretive. However, according to some detailed data in Smartclass rankings it drastically underperforms the average in retention of students (69%), graduation rates (24%), and post graduation salary (bottom 10% of surveyed). Liberty University's law school ranks among the worst ten in the USA with a quarter of its graduates unemployed. Despite all this, Liberty University is very strict about acceptance (~20% of applying students) and students often rank average in standardized testing scores.
Notable Ed.D degree dissertation
Pensacola Christian College and ICR Graduate school alumnus Pierre Willems earned a Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D) from Liberty University. A Doctor of Education degree is a professional doctorate earned to increase teaching skills or in some cases for teacher licensing.[note 2] The Ed.D has similar requirements as a Doctor of Philosophy which includes a doctoral thesis/dissertation. Ed.D dissertations should include original research and contribution to scholarship. Taking this information into consideration, the dissertation, How Science Teachers Balance Religion And Evolution in the Science Classroom: A Case Study Of Science Classes in a Florida Public School District, has research but there is a very small sample size and the sample size is in the bible belt. This critique mostly attacks the poorly put into place research plan and bias. For example:
For convenience of access participants included high school and middle school science teachers in one school district in Florida. These teachers came from the public school system because the literature review indicates that the research is based on the teaching of science in the public schools, and the participants and subjects of the current research are employed by the public schools.
Problems get worse considering only three teachers were interviewed and none were non-Christian. The thesis mentions religious beliefs affecting the skills of the teacher, but conveniently ignores Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, and well...you get the picture. To be fair, getting interviews is not exactly easy but here it goes:
There were three participants in this study from a school district in Florida. It took about one year to get three volunteers who were willing to participate in this study. The first two, Carol and George, taught in two different high schools, and Doug taught in a middle school. Carol, George, and Doug are pseudonyms as per IRB requirements. After each participant description is a list of summary statements produced from each of their answers to the interview questions. This should provide a more in-depth perspective on the way each participant thinks. I emailed each participant the list of summary statements for member-checking, to which all three participants responded positively.
Compounding the problems, Willems is supposed to have a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Biology but he does not know the difference between Evolution and Abiogenesis. If someone has a legit Biology education then they would not confuse the terms.
The term evolution covers the natural development of life from chemicals to life forms present today on Earth, a process that is believed to have taken billions of years on an Earth with an original atmosphere more reduced than the present atmosphere.
This poorly set up research reflects LU's low educational standards and bias. While this thesis is better than Kent Hovind's "thesis" there is just way too much bias and little data to properly conduct research.
The Pre-Trib Research Center,[note 3] based at Liberty University, "is a 'think tank' committed to the study, proclamation, teaching and defending of the Pretribulational Rapture (pre-70th week of Daniel) and related end-time prophecy." They offer most of their "research" papers online and also sell some spiffy DVD sets for completists.
“”I like having the capitol of the United States in Washington, D.C., in spite of recent efforts to move it to Lynchburg, Virginia.
|—Frank Zappa, 1989|
Liberty University is a predominately conservative school, which promotes Republican candidates and adheres to the right wing base of America.
Political figures across the political spectrum, including Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson, and Mike "Pray the gay away” Pence, have spoken at Liberty's "Convocation," where students have to attend or they will face a $10 fine. In the crowd at Ted Cruz's speech. you could also see some students wearing Rand Paul shirts.
They've also have had a predominantly large number of conservative entertainers and political commentators speak on campus including Mel Gibson, Brett Favre, Jeff Foxworthy, Dave Rubin, Diamond and Silk, TobyMac, Alan Dershowitz, Kirk Cameron, Ben Shapiro, Jeanine Pirro, Candace Owens, Dean Cain, and Jim Caviezel.
Liberty University desecrated a mountain overlooking most of Lynchburg, Virginia with the Liberty University Monogram, a giant logo so large it can literally be seen clear into the next county.
Liberty owns, either directly or indirectly, many local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, shooting ranges, a year-round ski slope, some strip malls, two radio stations, and a TV station. They have even sponsored a few NASCAR teams as well.
Liberty Christian Academy
Like Bob Jones University and a few other fundy madhouses, Liberty University also operates a private high school, Liberty Christian Academy. It was founded by Falwell in 1966 as the Lynchburg Christian Academy, "a private school for white students".
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the virus rapidly spread. While many secular and religious schools (including Pensacola Christian College) did the proper thing and locked down, Liberty, among others, refused to. This led to a group of students filing a lawsuit for refusing to refund money to those who couldn't attend class. Like many institutions in the United States, Liberty did not require staff or students to be vaccinated even after a nationwide vaccine rollout, likely a contributing factor to the outbreak.
In July 2021, a dozen women sued Liberty, claiming that the university created an environment encouraging rape and sexual harassment. The suit claims that the university retaliated against or otherwise downplayed reports by sexual assault victims. The horrifying stories documented in the suit include the story of a fifteen year old girl who was raped at a university-sponsored "summer camp" and subjected to humiliating treatment and threats of violating the "Liberty Way," the university's so-called code of conduct. The university is accused of repeatedly using the honor code to silence sexual assault victims. In another case, the victim, a Liberty employee, was told after reporting a sexual assault that the accused was a "man of God" and she was trying to "smear" his reputation; she was subsequently denied promotions and was later fired by the university. Unfortunately, campus rape is a major problem in the United States, and this is a prime example of the all-too-common downplaying of the issue by educational institutions.
In 2023, the Department of Education released preliminary findings that Liberty University routinely did not comply with the Clery Act, to which it was obligated to comply as a recipient of "$874 million for student loans and grants from the Education Department in 2020-2021." It violated the act by discouraging people at the university from reporting crimes, under-reporting crimes, and by destroying evidence after the DOE investigation began.
- Unless, of course, that counterculture happens to be Rev. Falwell's cult.
- However, Liberty University's description of their Doctor of Education program reveals a heavy bias. The program requirements state that the graduate:
- Knows research competencies synthesized with Christian values, moral dimensions, and ethical implications.
- Implements leadership, teaching and learning competencies as a gift from God because teaching /learning is a calling from God.
- Believes foundation competencies consistent with our mission to prepare competent professionals with a biblical worldview for Christian, public, and private school.
- Not intended as a reference to a lesbian sex act popular in porn.
- Brandon Ambrosino, ‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence. More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world. politico.com, 9 September 2019.
- Ryan Bort, The Saga of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Bizarre Relationship With a Miami Beach Pool Boy, Explained, Rolling Stone, 20 June 2019.
- Miranda Bryant, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University dogged by growing claims of corruption. The Guardian, 15 September 2019.
- Victoria Bekiempis, Jerry Falwell Jr confirms he has resigned from Liberty University. The Guardian, 25 August 2020.
- Glasstetter, Josh. Liberty Isn't Free at Liberty University – Inside Jerry Falwell U. Right Wing Watch website. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Porteous, Skipp. Falwell fights 'heresy' on campus. Institute for First Amendment Studies archived on the Public Eye website. November/December 1997. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- The City of Lynchburg, VA is named after John Lynch and his namesake ferry service. Lynching is probably named after Charles Lynch from "Lynch Law". Not that any laymen will look them up in distinguishing between them.
- Liberty University #1 in Debate?
- Strong Opinions About Liberty University Debate Success
- Chafets, Zev. Ministers of Debate. The New York Times Magazine: March 19, 2006.
- How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online. The New York Times, 17 April 2018.
The real driver of growth at Liberty, it turns out, is not the students who attend classes in Lynchburg but the far greater number of students who are paying for credentials and classes that are delivered remotely, as many as 95,000 in a given year. By 2015, Liberty had quietly become the second-largest provider of online education in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, its student population surpassed only by that of University of Phoenix, as it tapped into the same hunger for self-advancement that Trump had with his own pricey Trump University seminars.
- Liberty University accreditation information. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- CRST 290 History of Life. Liberty University website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Center for Creation Studies. Liberty University website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Course syllabus, CRST 290 History of Life. Liberty University website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Hendrix, Steve, Creationist Students Take Trip to Evolution Headquarters: The Smithsonian. Washington Post. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- History of Life Course ePack for the Liberty University Online CRST 290. CRST290Online web site. Make sure you have your credit card available. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Archaeology professor Randall Price immerses students in the world of the Bible. Liberty University web site. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- School of Aeronautics. Liberty University web site. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Med Colleges Liberty University Ranking
- College Smartclass rankings
- Liberty University - US News and World Report Medical school rankings
- US News and World Reports list of Southern region universities
- Where it counts, at Liberty University
- Pierre Dominique Willems, Liberty University, How Science Teachers Balance Religion And Evolution in the Science Classroom: A Case Study Of Science Classes in a Florida Public School District. A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 2015.
- What We Believe. Pre-Trib Research website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Pretrib_arch. Liberty University Digital Commons. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Articles. Pre-Trib Research Center website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Pre-Trib Media. Tim LaFaye Ministries website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, The Real Frank Zappa Book, Touchstone, New York, 1989, p. 274. ISBN 067163870-X
- Lithwick, Dahlia. Justice's Holy Hires. Washington Post. 8 April 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Goldmacher, Shane. These Students 'Stand with Rand' at Ted Cruz's 2016 Announcement. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Barbaro, Michael. Jeb Bush Defends Religious Freedom at Liberty University. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Introduction to the Campus. Liberty University website. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- Liberty Monogram on Google Maps.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites to open in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hotel Equities web site. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Liberty University buys Quality Inn in Lynchburg. The News and Advance, Lynchburg, Virginia. 2 November 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Liberty University Buys Sundae-Grill Building. WSET-TV website. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Shooting Ranges are open for students. Liberty Student News. 15 February 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center. Liberty University website. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Plaza shopping center sees revival. Liberty University website. 12 September 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- 90.9 FM - The Light. Liberty University website. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- The Journey 88.3. Liberty University website. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- WLHG-CD Lynchburg, Virginia. Rabbitears.info. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- Liberty Christian Academy website. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Blumenthal, Max. Agent of Intolerance. The Nation. 28 May 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- David K. Li, Student sues Liberty University, demands refund over coronavirus response. NBC News, 14 April 2020.
- Korin Miller, Oregon superintendent fired after enforcing mask mandate, Liberty University under campuswide quarantine. Yahoo, 2 September 2021.
- Jane Does 1-12 vs. Liberty University. Archived from the original posted to dropbox.com, 20 July 2021.
- Ryan J. farrick, Lawsuit: Liberty University Used “Honor” Code to Suppress Rape, Sexual Harassment Complaints. legalreader.com, 23 July 2021.
- Cynthia Beasley, 'Weaponization of the Liberty Way:' LU punishes women reporting sex assaults, lawsuit says. WSET, 20 July 2021.
- Emily McFarlen Miller, A Dozen Female Victims Sue Liberty University Over Abuse Policies. Christianity Today, 21 July 2021.
- Hemant Mehta, 12 Women sued Liberty U. for Enabling Sexual Abuse; Their Stories are Horrifying. Friendly Atheist, patheos.com, 20 July 2021.
- Liberty University broke safety laws for years, government asserts: In preliminary findings, the Education Department says the Christian school underreported crimes and destroyed evidence. Administrators can appeal. by Susan Svrluga (October 3, 2023) The Washington Post.