Liberty University Faces $14 Million Fine Over Unreported Campus Crimes and Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases

March 5, 2024 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Liberty University has agreed to pay an unprecedented $14 million fine for its failure to disclose information about crimes on its campus and for its treatment of sexual assault survivors, the U.S.

Department of Education announced Tuesday. This is by far the largest ever levied under the Clery Act, a law that requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding to collect data on campus crime and notify students of threats.

Liberty University has long marketed itself as having one of the nation's safest campuses with more than 15,000 students enrolled at the school in Lynchburg. However, its police department had a single officer with minimal oversight who was investigating crimes for most of the time period reviewed by federal investigators (2016 to 2023). The U.S. Department of Education said it identified numerous cases that resulted in the misclassification or underreporting of crimes, and there were several incidents where the university determined to be unfounded without any clear showing that the initial report was false or baseless.

Many victims of sexual crimes were fearful of reporting their incidents because of fear of reprisal. In fact, over the course of this review period, several sexual assault victims were punished for violating the student code of conduct known as “The Liberty Way,” while their assailants were left unpunished. This created a culture of silence where sexual assaults commonly went unreported.

Liberty University said in a statement Tuesday that it is "fully committed to maintaining the safety and security of students and staff without exception." The school stated that it would continue to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education, acknowledging past problems such as “incorrect statistical reports as well as necessary timely warnings and emergency notifications that were not sent.”

Before Tuesday, the largest Clery Act fine in history was $4.5 million against Michigan State in 2019 for failing to adequately respond to sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.