The accrediting body that oversees Liberty University has asked the college for more information about recent news reports that have questioned President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership style and personal business interests, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges recently sent the Lynchburg, Virginia, university a letter asking it to “respond to the media reports,” Janea Johnson said this week.
Johnson declined to provide details about the contents of the letter or any specific concerns the commission would like addressed, saying the commission doesn’t divulge such communications.
“The things that are in the media are things we wanted the institution to address to us,” Johnson said.
Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said the university hadn’t received any communications from the commission yet.
Liberty is the nation’s highest-profile evangelical college. Falwell previously told AP that the news reports stemmed from an “attempted coup” orchestrated by several disgruntled former board members and employees who are leaking internal university communications to discredit him. He said he has asked the FBI to investigate what he considers a criminal conspiracy.
Falwell is the son of the late evangelist the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty and led the Moral Majority, a conservative, religious political action group.
The younger Falwell was among the earliest Christian conservatives to endorse President Donald Trump’s campaign and has enjoyed close access to the president. He says that support has likely prompted some of the criticism of his leadership style, personal life and business investments that has surfaced in news reports recently.
The reports, some based on anonymous sources, have described Falwell as a temperamental leader who brokers no dissent and has blurred the lines between the school and his personal business.
Falwell has helped transform Liberty from a tiny Baptist college into a touchstone institution for evangelicals. Its campus is dotted with sparkling new buildings and the university is flush with cash and real estate holdings in and around Lynchburg.
The most recently available tax records show Falwell makes about $1 million a year running the school.
Once Liberty responds to the commission’s inquiry, a staff member will weigh whether any further action is necessary, Johnson said. If that staff member recommends taking action, the commission’s board would consider that at its next meeting in December, she said.
Currently, Liberty is fully accredited without any sanctions, she said.
Source: Associated Press – SARAH RANKIN and ALAN SUDERMAN