Liberty University’s Board of Trustees requested that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles at the university, which include serving as president and chancellor.
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full board, met Friday and made the request.
According to the university, Falwell Jr. has agreed and is taking his leave of absence effective immediately.
Jerry Prevo, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, released a statement on Friday night, saying, in part, that Liberty’s “unprecedented success” during the last 13 years under Falwell Jr.‘s leadership has brought “substantial pressure.”
Read Prevo’s full statement here:
“In the 13 years that Jerry Falwell, Jr. has served as president of Liberty University, Liberty has experienced unprecedented success, not only academically and financially, with a world-class campus, but also spiritually. As we enter our 50th Anniversary year, we have been blessed to grow to a record 120,000 students, both residential and online, and continue to fulfill our founder’s mission to Train Champions for Christ across the world.
Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure. Today, my colleagues and I on the Liberty University Board of Trustees and Jerry mutually agreed that it would be good for him to take an indefinite leave of absence. This was a decision that was not made lightly, and which factored the interests and concerns of everyone in the LU community, including students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, leaders of the Church, as well as the Falwell family.
To support Jerry through this period, we ask that our entire community lift him up in prayer so he may be able to fulfill God’s purpose for him and for Liberty University.”
The caption on the now-deleted post reads, “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”
After the photo went viral, a GOP lawmaker and former Liberty University instructor called for Falwell Jr. to resign.
Eric Carroll is a Liberty alum and one of the 35 African-American alumni who signed a letter condemning Falwell Jr. following his controversial Northam mask tweet.
“You keep saying ‘OK I did this, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ and then you do it again. You did this, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again’ and then it’s done again, or something that is tweeted or something that’s written. I think that people just get to that point where enough is enough,” Carroll said.
Falwell has made headlines for a number of controversies recently, including the tweet, the photo, another Instagram post about roadkill dying from COVID-19 and Liberty’s decision to bring students back at the beginning of the pandemic.
“For a while I thought OK does anybody care? Does anybody pay attention? I had more Facebook debates going back and forth than what I even care to think about these days,” Carroll said.
Their letter did not call for Falwell’s resignation, but did ask for an apology and to meet with top university leaders. He did apologize for the tweet, but Carroll and the others have yet to get their meeting.
“Right now I can tell you, at least from what I know of, there’s at least seven groups of people from Liberty University that are just ready to raise cane over all of this stuff that has gone on and how people have been treated,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he doesn’t consider this a victory - but rather a step in the right direction. He said Falwell Jr. has done much good for the University, and he’s not as concerned about separating the University from Falwell Jr. as he is with Falwell Jr. reconciling in his faith.
“But at the end of the day I’m trusting that the board of trustees is going to look at this and say how do we help restore him, whatever that looks like. Whether that’s restoring him back to the President of the school or not, that’s up to the board of trustees and Jerry Jr,” Carroll said.
Students return to Liberty’s campus for fall classes in two weeks. Liberty has yet named an interim president.