LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty University is in the spotlight again following what some are calling a controversial decision by university president Jerry Falwell Jr.
Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an article about students showing symptoms of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The article’s author, Elizabeth Williamson, is a feature reporter for the New York Times. She told 10 News she was in Lynchburg last week and spent that time trying to get reaction from students and city leaders to Falwell Jr’s decision.
The article posted Sunday evening said there were sick students on campus who brought the virus back with them.
Williamson said people she spoke to had mixed feelings about Falwell’s decision, despite the social distancing rules in place.
"What I observed personally and what students have told me, those sorts of guidelines are not really being adhered to in every instance,” Williamson said.
Our story is based on interviews with Liberty University staff members, students, and regional officials including the mayor of Lynchburg, Va. They described contradictory statements by University leadership, and personal attacks for speaking out.— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) March 30, 2020
The university also responded with a statement to 10 News saying the Times reported false information.
In a release on Sunday, school leaders said they were not aware of any on-campus students who were tested for COVID-19, but seven were asked to self-quarantine.
Monday morning, the New York Times article was updated to say a student had tested positive.
At 5:18 p.m. Monday, Liberty sent a Frequently Asked Questions sheet to 10 News.
In the update, Liberty leaders broke down the numbers of how many students came back to campus after spring break and the three students known to have been tested for COVID-19. The school also said there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases for Liberty residential students, and there’s one former athlete and graduate taking online classes living locally who tested positive for COVID-19.
Lynchburg’s Mayor Treney Tweedy was interviewed by the New York Times reporter.
Tweedy called Falwell’s actions reckless last week. On Monday she said the city is not picking on one college or university—it wants school leaders to make the best decision possible.
Tweedy says her office is still receiving phone calls from the community and students after the New York Times article.
“I have had some students who have communicated with me they have returned to their dorms, returned to Lynchburg and they are self-isolating. They are self-quarantining themselves. They wanted to make sure we knew that,” Tweedy said.
We’ve attached below Liberty’s statement regarding the NY Times article and their FAQ sheet: