"Exterior of the Jerry Falwell Library at Liberty University" by PCHS-NJROTC / CC BY-SA 4.0

Inside Liberty University’s ‘culture of fear’

Jul 26, 2019

By Will E. Young

In my first week as editor in chief of the Champion, Liberty University’s student-run weekly, our faculty adviser, Deborah Huff, ordered me to apologize. I’d noticed that our evangelical school’s police department didn’t publish its daily crime log online, as many other private university forces did, so I searched elsewhere for crime information I might use in an article. I called the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators to find out what the law required Liberty to disclose. But the public affairs worker there told the Liberty University Police Department, which complained to Huff. She called to upbraid me: Apparently, I had endangered our newspaper’s relationship with the LUPD. Huff and Chief Richard Hinkley convened a meeting inside a police department conference room, and Huff sat next to me while I proffered the forced apology to Hinkley — for asking questions. Huff, too, was contrite, assuring the police chief that it wouldn’t happen again, because she’d keep a better eye on me.

This wasn’t exactly a rude awakening. I’d spent the previous three years watching the university administration, led by President Jerry Falwell Jr. (who took a very micromanaging interest), meddle in our coverage, revise controversial op-eds and protect its image by stripping damning facts from our stories. Still, I stuck around. I thought that if I wrote with discretion and kept my head down, I could one day win enough trust from the university to protect the integrity of our journalism. I even dreamed we could eventually persuade the administration to let the Champion go independent from its supervision. I was naive.

Instead, when my team took over that fall of 2017, we encountered an “oversight” system — read: a censorship regime — that required us to send every story to Falwell’s assistant for review. Any administrator or professor who appeared in an article had editing authority over any part of the article; they added and deleted whatever they wanted. Falwell called our newsroom on multiple occasions to direct our coverage personally, as he had a year earlier when, weeks before the 2016 election, he read a draft of my column defending mainstream news outlets and ordered me to say whom I planned to vote for. I refused on ethical grounds, so Falwell told me to insert “The author refused to reveal which candidate he is supporting for president” at the bottom of the column. I complied. (Huff and the police department declined to comment on the contents of this essay. Falwell and the university did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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2 comments on “Inside Liberty University’s ‘culture of fear’

  • Liberty?  A liberty that only works if you follow their established dogma for young and old that leads to your acceptance.  No matter how things change isn’t odd how they stay the same as concerns their propositions and preaching generally.  This is the religious road of delusion that they hope and pray you will continue to follow, at your expense.  Pray all you want but the outcome will never vary, endless platitudes to a non-existing sky entity will generally remain constant, zero output for any and all  input is the “real” outcome of religion every time, no matter how hard you desire it to work.

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  • “Liberty” university has for years, been consistently taking liberties with facts and scientific information, so it should be no surprise, that in the traditions of fundamentalist evangelism, they operate censorship of objective reporting and substitute lying propaganda, with big badges labelled “truth” and “liberty” on their PR front of pseudo-respectability!

    Self-awarded badges of “goodness”, “honesty”, and “integrity”, are well known feature of liars for Jesus and libertarian charlatans for profit!


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