RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) — The mayor of Lynchburg is one of several officials hearing complaints and concerns about almost 2,000 students who have returned from their spring break to Liberty University.
Liberty moved most classes online, but President Jerry Falwell Jr. is welcoming them back during the spread of coronavirus that has led most universities to keep students off campuses.
Falwell said the decision came down to whether to extend the break and risk students having a longer time to become exposed to the virus and bring it back to Lynchburg, or to put everything in place in time for their return.
“Our thinking was, ‘Let's get them back as soon as we can — the ones who want to come back.”
About 1900 students are back on campus, leading Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy to issue the following statement:
“First of all, I want the residents in this community to know that at no time did I or the City Manager endorse having the students return to Liberty University’s campus or any of the other college or university campuses in our community. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
“When we asked President Falwell to close his campus, he explained that he had to remain open for on-campus international students who had not gone home, some lab classes and the School of Aviation. President Falwell also noted that the University would be moving to an on-line platform for instruction."
After receiving this information, Mayor Tweedy thanked the presidents of all the area colleges and universities for their decisions to close or limit access to their campuses in a March 16 press release.
“I was very surprised and disappointed to later learn of President Falwell’s most recent decision to allow students back on campus,” said Mayor Tweedy. “We are in the midst of a public health crisis. I am concerned for the students, faculty and employees at Liberty University, and I am also very concerned for the residents of the Lynchburg community. Liberty University is an important part of this community; however, I believe it was a reckless decision to bring students back on campus at this time. It is unfortunate that President Falwell chose to not keep his word to us and to this community.”
Mayor Tweedy continued by saying COVID-19 is much bigger than one person’s decisions and the community cannot dwell on this one issue.
“I am pleading with the Lynchburg community to take this pandemic seriously. The only way we can get a handle on this and flatten the curve of this disease is to follow the guidelines set forth by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
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