Mar 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Liberty University fined $14 million, largest penalty ever imposed via Clery Act

The Liberty University campus in Virginia

The Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Sept. 14, 2015. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday that Liberty University has agreed to pay $14 million for violating a federal law regarding campus safety and for its "treatment of sexual assault survivors."

The big picture: This marks the largest fine ever imposed via the federal law — known as the Clery Act — according to the department.

Zoom in: The department said the private Christian university in Virginia must also pay a separate fine of $2 million over the next couple of years "for on-campus safety improvements and compliance enhancements," per a statement Tuesday.

  • It added that "any further lapses" in complying with the federal law could "jeopardize the terms of the University's participation in the federal student aid programs or result in other administrative sanctions against the institution."
  • The department noted that the university's administration promptly acknowledged nearly "all the violations identified in the program review report, and its demonstrated commitment to remedying them."

The other side: Liberty University said in a statement shared with Axios that the settlement comes after it "made more than $10 million in significant advancements" since 2022.

  • The advancements include "corrective measures, educational programming, new leadership and staffing, infrastructure, and facilities in order to focus on compliance and ensure strong and sustainable Title IX and Clery Act programs."
  • "Liberty is fully committed to maintaining the safety and security of students and staff without exception," the university added.
  • The university also said it disagrees with the department's approach, arguing that its methodologies, findings and calculations were "drastically different from their historic treatment of other universities."

Zoom out: The Clery Act requires colleges who get federal funding to share a public annual security report to members of the campus every October, according to the Clery Center.

  • Prior to Liberty's settlement, the largest Clery Act fine had been $4.5 million against Michigan State University in 2019, per the AP.

Go deeper: Former student claims Liberty University mishandled sexual assault allegations

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