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Northam Calls on Liberty University To Keep Students Off Campus

Sign for Liberty University
Liberty University. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr CC BY 2.0)

*VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story.

This story has been updated with a statement by Liberty University.

Gov. Ralph Northam is criticizing a decision by Liberty University to invite students back to campus as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across Virginia.

The university’s president, Jerry Falwell, previously told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he does not believe most students are at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of their age. 

Northam called on Falwell to reconsider his message and follow the example of other Virginia schools that have encouraged students to stay home.

“We have heard too many mixed messages around the country about COVID-19 and this is yet another example,” Northam said Wednesday during a press briefing on the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Other colleges and universities are moving classes online for the rest of the semester, extending spring breaks and canceling graduation ceremonies in order to prevent the potential spread of the virus. 

Liberty University moved all classes online following an initial 100-person limit on public gatherings by the governor, which has since been further restricted to 10 people. But Falwell decided against extending the university’s spring break.

Quoting a Bible verse, Northam suggested Falwell should clear up any confusion regarding students’ best course of action.

As we are told in First Corinthians, ‘it is required that those who are given a trust must prove faithful,’” Northam said. “Proving faithful means providing clear and consistent guidance, and it means respecting the duty that Liberty University has to its students, its staff, the Lynchburg community in which it is located and our commonwealth.”

VPM has reached out for a comment from Liberty University and will update this article with their response.

Update:

In a statement, Liberty University defended its decision to brings students back to campus. The school says it’s not in violation of Northam’s executive order restricting certain gatherings.

“[Students] work jobs, have apartments, make economic contributions and pay taxes,” the statement reads. “That they should be banned or discouraged from choosing to utilize the shelter and food sources that they paid for in a time of crisis is unthinkable.”