LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Dozens of Liberty University students gathered for a protest Friday morning on the steps of the Montiew Student Union. Organizers of the protest say they are asking for an investigation into allegations of misconduct by University President Jerry Falwell, Jr.
It was hard for some to speak out.
“We’re afraid of losing scholarships, of being kicked out, of being asked to leave our programs, being written up, having fines, et cetera,” said Liberty University senior Tessa Russell.
The students said it was important to say something.
“We’re calling for an investigation,” said Elizabeth Brooks, a Liberty student who organized the protest. “We’re calling for more accountability and transparency from liberty’s highest office. We’re wanting to investigate the allegations of misconduct that have arisen over the past week from the Politico article, the Reuters article. We really just want to know what’s going on around our university.”
News reports accuse Falwell of offenses from harassment to self-dealing and using his position to enrich close friends.
Some students, like Ian Parish, initially stuck by Falwell, until more reporting included emails from Falwell discussing students and using derogatory terms to describe them.
“That’s wrong,” said Parish. “He’s talking about the student body detrimentally. And I sat there and thought to myself, what if this was my friend? What if this was my RA? What if this was my RS? What if this was me?”
Many others are with Falwell.
“We just wanted to come out and support Jerry, have some fun,” said sophomore Michael Faragalla
“I think that, of the president, Jerry, he’s a good man,” said freshman Kevin Latchyya.
“I’m here today to support my president,” said freshman David Martin Powell. “I believe half this campus that we’re sitting on today was built by Jerry Falwell, Jr. I think we all have our little things we do wrong, but I think for the most part, he’s doing great change here at Liberty.”
Through the discussions on the steps of the Montview Student Union, some Falwell supporters have opened up to the idea of an investigation.
“I think [an investigation] is a great idea,” said sophomore Eli Schafer, who supports Falwell, but said his conversation with Parish changed his perspective. “I think that everyone needs accountability in life, especially when you’re at such a high leadership position.”
There were heated discussions between students who disagree.
“The Bible says we’re supposed to hold each other accountable,” said sophomore Jack Schulze, while arguing with another student. “Do we not do that now? So I shouldn’t stand here and hold someone who has authority over my life accountable?”
It was a nonviolent event, as Falwell himself noted on Twitter.
Falwell responded to the protest on Twitter:
WFXR reached out to the University for comment, but officials have not yet responded to our request.
Liberty University responded to the allegations in recent news articles on Thursday with a 19-page document posted to their website.