Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia is preparing to re-open the main campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told the Richmond Times-Dispatch
“I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life.”
Falwell added that as many as 5,000 students are expected to be back on campus by Monday. Despite the fact that almost all of Liberty’s classes have been moved online, staff and faculty are still expected to come to work as usual.
Falwell noted that the dining halls are operating in a takeout-only capacity and that special classes that need to meet in person, such as labs, will adhere to Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) 10-person gathering limit.
Falwell has given voice to conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. Earlier in the month while on Fox News he said, “You remember the North Korean leader promised us a Christmas present for America? Back in December. Could it be they got together with China and this is that present? I don’t know. But it really is something strange going on.”
Falwell insists that the university was protecting the students by having them on campus.
“I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”
Virginia has more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and Northam on Monday ordered all nonessential businesses to close by the start of Wednesday, though it is unclear how this mandate will affect the college.
While the Lynchburg campus is open to students, faculty, staff, prospective students and their family members, it is closed to other visitors.
The decision to have students on campus makes Liberty an outlier among universities around the country. Most schools have lengthened their spring breaks, moved learning online and instructed their students to return home.