Falwell’s Liberty University says about 1,700 students returned

Janet Lorin

Liberty University said about 1,700 students returned to campus after the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., gave those enrolled the option even as the coronavirus outbreak worsened across the U.S.

Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb provided the figure Wednesday in a statement.

“They were talking about being glad to be back,” Falwell said on March 23. “I was joking about how they pretty much had the whole place to themselves, and told all of them to enjoy it.”

Falwell, whose father founded the private school about 50 years ago, moved most classes online Monday and also decided to allow students to return to the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus. The decision ran counter to state and local officials and most U.S. colleges, which have ordered students to return home.

Falwell said operations on Monday had been seamless and that he had walked through campus and met with many students.

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

In a statement on Liberty’s website Wednesday, officials said the school is taking extra precautions to clean high-touch surfaces and will comply with the governor’s directive banning large gatherings.

Robert Lambeth, president of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia, declined to comment on Liberty’s decision on Wednesday.