Title IX and Liberty University: A look at recent history and changes in the works
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - This past summer, a major lawsuit was filed against Liberty University, creating waves for the months to come.
Twelve anonymous women, known as Jane Does 1 through 12, filed a lawsuit alleging Title IX failures against Liberty.
The lawsuit features accounts of students and staff dating back years.
Wednesday morning, WDBJ7 sat down with Scott Lamb, the university’s former senior vice president of communications and public engagement.
“What was the reaction from university administration at that time and what was your personal reaction?” WDBJ7 asked.
“Media would come in with their questions – how about this, how about that? Well, if that had to do with anything of the plaintiffs, then the response would be, we’re not talking about this, we’re in the middle of a lawsuit, so the boilerplate, we don’t talk about lending litigation – look, I get that, that’s a strategy, but I was arguing that’s a poor strategy,” he said.
Beyond that, Lamb said Wednesday, the impression being given to the community was that Liberty was taking a look at itself and trying to assess what had happened.
He alleges as the months went by, he discovered nothing was actually being done to address the issues.
“The more months that went by, the more I realized, we were not actually looking to get to the bottom of what happened in terms of transparency, restitution, reconciliation, repentance – institutional repentance, systemic changes,” he said.
In those same months that have passed, students have called for changes at the university.
Last month WDBJ7 spoke to Justice for Janes, a student group calling for three major reforms to the university: one, a third-party audit of the university’s Title IX offices; two, true amnesty for survivors reporting Title IX offenses; and three, blue light emergency boxes with a direct link to the Lynchburg Police Department.
At Wednesday morning’s convocation, university president Jerry Prevo announced the blue lights are heading to campus.
“We are in the process of installing of installing blue boxes,” he said.
He added he authorized $8.5 million for cameras to be put across the university and that amnesty will be given for survivors who report Title IX offenses.
“You are not going to be disciplined for that if you come and you have a legitimate complaint that you have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, dating, domestic violence, you’re gonna have what we call amnesty. We do not want you to be afraid to come forward,” he said.
Thursday, a news conference was set to demand a third-party investigation.
However, campus pastor Jonathan Falwell called one of the participants, telling them the Liberty board of trustees’ executive committee approved a third-party investigation. That investigation would need the board’s approval before moving forward.
“So if this is a serious thing and Liberty is really going to follow through with this, they need to do this ASAP,” said Hailey Wilkinson with Justice for Janes.
“I would add I’m deeply encouraged to hear that this has been taken. There are still many steps left to be taken to ensure it’s properly executed,” said Rachael Denhollander, attorney and the first woman to publicly accuse USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser of sexual assault. “I’ve offered to President Prevo to either consult myself or provide a list of names of those who could.”
Prevo attended a rally Thursday night on campus.
At that rally, students showed their support for survivors of sexual assault while also pressing for a third-party investigation. After the rally, WDBJ7 spoke to him.
“We’re going to do something about this and I came really to hear more of their concerns. Quite frankly, I haven’t heard that many until very recently, so I came here tonight to show support that we’re concerned about what’s happened,” he said.
He also commented on the development of a third-party investigation into the university’s Title IX situation.
“In fact, way before this meeting today, you know, today is our board meeting, and I’ve been working on getting a third-party firm to come in and help me to evaluate our Title IX situation,” he said.
WDBJ7 asked Prevo about getting the board’s approval before getting things put into motion.
“It will be put into motion, it will be,” he said.
In response to the new development Thursday, Lamb gave WDBJ7 a statement, saying “I am glad to hear the news today that the Executive Committee will bring to the entire Board a motion to hire a true third-party investigation for the victims of sexual assault at Liberty University. This recommendation is one of the many items I brought up repeatedly during the past year, and it was one of the points of contention between acting president Prevo and myself just thirty days ago, in the conversation that led to my termination. My whistleblowing cost me my job, but I am glad to see there could be justice one day for these victims -- and a truly safer Liberty campus in the future. I appeal to the Board to push through this motion -- and to do so will a unanimous vote of the Board.”
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