SEO Headline (Max 60 characters)

Liberty Retains Forensic Firm to Investigate Falwell's Tenure

September 1, 2020
 
 

Liberty University is pursuing an investigation of operations during the tenure of its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

The executive committee of the Board of Trustees at Liberty announced the investigation yesterday. Liberty, a conservative Christian university based in Lynchburg, Va., with a massive online presence, has retained a forensic firm to investigate aspects of Falwell’s tenure including the university’s financial, real estate and legal operations.

Falwell resigned last week, shortly after a Reuters article detailed allegations from Giancarlo Granda of a seven-year sexual relationship involving Falwell and his wife. The relationship, which allegedly began in 2012, when Granda was a 20-year-old pool attendant at a Miami Beach hotel, was said to have Falwell watching while his wife and Granda had sex. Falwell has denied involvement but said that he was the subject of an extortion attempt.

Liberty had already placed Falwell on leave in August after photographs showed him holding a drink with his pants unzipped while standing next to a woman whose pants were also unzipped. Questions later rose about the location of the photo, a yacht owned by NASCAR mogul Rick Hendrick.

“Some may say that all the signs were there for a long time before last week,” the Liberty board’s executive committee said in a statement. “It’s certainly fair to say that there were questionable comments made, worrying behavior, and inappropriate social media posts, but all the signs were not there until the start of last week. While we still didn’t know the full scope of the matter, we have learned enough about the past to know that we had no choice but to take the leadership of Liberty University in a new direction.”

Falwell’s name has been tied to controversy numerous times in recent years. Several Liberty faculty and staff members resigned earlier this year after Falwell tweeted an image of a face mask with a picture from Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook showing men wearing blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes. In 2019 Falwell said he was asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into an “attempted coup” against him by former Liberty board members and employees.

In 2017, a Politico article detailed allegations that Liberty did not properly itemize on its federal tax forms a home sale made to Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell III -- and that the family owned a gay-friendly Miami hostel with an adjoining liquor store. At the time, Liberty said the home sale was properly disclosed and that Falwell III was acting as an entrepreneur in buying the hostel with his business partner, Granda.

Students and faculty members have also voiced concerns about changes on campus at Liberty in recent years, including cuts to its divinity school in 2019. Earlier this year Liberty stopped accepting new undergraduate philosophy students.

Falwell Jr. took over as Liberty president after the 2007 death of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., the outspoken leader of the Moral Majority. Falwell Jr. went on to lead Liberty through an explosive period of growth driven by online enrollment. His political backing was considered a key part of securing evangelical support for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, and members of the Trump administration have regularly appeared at Liberty events.

In its statement, the Liberty board’s executive committee also pledged commitment to the university’s spiritual mission.

“Of course, moving forward, we are very mindful that we must seek leaders who demonstrate a full commitment to the spiritual mission of Liberty University by words, actions, and example,” the Liberty board executive committee said in its statement. “That is why, in addition to starting a search for a new president, we are also reviewing options to establish a new role in the top leadership of the University for someone who will serve as a spiritual coach, mentor, and guide to help ensure that every member of the University leadership fulfills his or her spiritual responsibility to live out the Christian walk expected of each and every one of us at Liberty.”

Falwell Jr.’s severance package has been reported at $10.5 million over two years.

We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected]dehighered.com.

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

 

Opinions on Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U

Back to Top