Liberty University faces class-action lawsuit from students over ineffective pandemic response: report

On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that a student at Liberty University is bringing a class-action lawsuit against the school over its "glacially slow" response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The unidentified student accuses the school and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., a vocal Trump supporter, of downplaying the coronavirus threat and refusing to refund students for 'room and board and other campus fees' after classes were moved online," reported Emma Tucker. "'Liberty University is, in a very real sense, profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic — keeping its campus and campus services ‘open’ as a pretext to retain Plaintiff’s and the other Class members’ room, board and campus fees, despite no longer having to incur the full cost of providing those services, all the while putting students’ finances and health at risk,' the lawsuit reads."

The school has dismissed the lawsuit as meritless, and asserts that students were in fact offered $1,000 credits for vacating housing on its Lynchburg, Virginia campus.

Falwell more broadly has defended the decision to reopen his campus despite Virginia being under a state of emergency — a decision that has led to several students being infected. He has asserted that students need not be on the physical campus and can attend classes remotely, and that only about ten percent of the student body opted to remain in housing, most of whom were from abroad and didn't want to return home to outbreaks in their own countries. Local Virginia officials, however, claim Falwell "misled" them when working out his plans to reopen.

After negative press coverage of his decision, Falwell announced that warrants were out on a pair of journalists from ProPublica and The New York Times for criminal trespass on the campus. It later turned out that the "warrant" was actually signed by a campus security officer, and there did not appear to be any signature from a judge or certification from a state court clerk.