News & Opinion | March 25, 2020 6:30 am

Liberty University Welcomes Students Back to Campus Despite Coronavirus Concerns

Almost 2,000 students were back on campus Tuesday afternoon

Arthur S. DeMoss at Liberty University
The school expects more than 5,000 students to return to campus.

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia has announced that students can return to campus, marking a significant departure from other universities across the country that have closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said about 1,900 students had returned to campus as of Tuesday afternoon, CNN reported. In a statement, the school announced that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and other leaders at the Evangelical institution had decided giving students the option to return to campus after spring break would be in their best interest.

“During Spring Break, Falwell and his executive leadership team began meeting every afternoon to determine the measures that needed to be taken for all programs to go online and for students to be able to return to their dorms and use the campus dining services that they paid for,” the statement said.

Liberty gave students the option to return to campus by filling out an online form expressing their intent. While just under 2,000 students have returned to campus, university officials are prepared for about 5,000 of the school’s usual 14,000 to 15,000 student population to return in the coming days.

The move has sparked backlash from those who argue bringing students back to campus is at odds with CDC guidelines for halting the spread of coronavirus, as well as Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s statewide order banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

“We could not be more disappointed in the action that Jerry took in telling students they could come back and take their online classes on campus,” Lynchburg City Manager Bonnie Svrcek told the Associated Press.

However, Liberty University said that it was “in compliance of all state restrictions related to COVID-19” following a Virginia Department of Health inspection that took place over spring break.

“Our thinking was, ‘Let’s get them back as soon as we can — the ones who want to come back,” Falwell said in the statement.

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