Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, disputed reports that he has reopened the Christian campus. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
March 25 (UPI) -- Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on Wednesday rejected criticisms that the Christian Virginia campus has reopened against the advice of U.S. health officials.
The conservative evangelical university drew backlash early this week from local and state officials after it was reported that students could return. Falwell said, however, that while the campus did allow the return of some students with nowhere else to go, it hasn't restarted classes.
"Liberty did not reopen," Falwell told CNN. "Liberty has between 1,000 and 2,000 students on a campus built for 15,500 and almost a thousand are international students who have nowhere else to go. Others have no place else to be except in their dorms."
Falwell attributed the report about the campus reopening to an "irresponsible" article from a local news outlet.
He added that most classes are now online and the school is complying with all state restrictions.
Liberty University spokesman Scott Lamb said about 1,900 students are still on the Lynchburg, Va., campus and the university expects more than 4,000 will eventually return. Falwell said although academic buildings on campus are open, all classes will remain online and professors will work from home.
"The campus has become more like an apartment complex than a university," Falwell added. "All the education is being done online. All the restaurants are serving takeout only. We are wiping down every surface that is touched off on every hour, we have extra police."
Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy criticized Falwell Tuesday, saying he told officials initially that the campus would only open to international students.
"I am concerned for the students, faculty and employees at Liberty University, and I am also very concerned for the residents of the Lynchburg community," he said.
Falwell answered by saying he never committed to closing campus dormitories.
Central Virginia Health District Director Dr. Kerry Gateley said inspectors found recently that the university is complying with state regulations limiting groups to 10 people.
"While the health department inspectors reported no significant findings at this time, we will continue to monitor campus conditions in the weeks ahead," the district said.