In the face of an urgent public health crisis that's upended daily life in the United States, schools and universities across the country have closed down to slow the spread of the virus.
Some won't reopen until next school year.
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia—however—is inviting its students and faculty back to campus.
Though classes at Liberty University will remain online, professors without legitimate health excuses will be on campus for office hours.
The University's President and devout supporter of President Donald Trump—Jerry Falwell Jr.—expects up to five thousand students to return to campus.
Falwell said of the decision:
"I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they've already paid for and to not interrupt their college life."
As with most states in the nation, cases in Virginia are on the rise, and a Liberty University official is now slamming Falwell for his decision to open the campus, potentially endangering students and faculty alike.
In an op-ed titled I Work for Liberty University. Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking an extreme path that threatens lives., Liberty University employee Marybeth Davis Baggett warns that Falwell is making a dire mistake.
Calling the move a "foolhardy decision," Baggett writes:
"[Falwell] has repeatedly made clear that he canceled residential classes for legal, not moral, reasons. In fact, his public comments on the pandemic have manifested bravado, self-congratulation, and callousness in the extreme, as he even this week on the Todd Starnes radio show spewed far-fetched, unsubstantiated, and misleading information about [the virus]."
Baggett is right about misinformation regarding the virus. He's previously claimed that it could be a biological weapon from North Korea.
Falwell insists that he is complying with Virginia officials in his decision to open the campus, and that the "Baggett lady" should feel embarrassed.
Many, however, are siding with Baggett.
While Liberty is very progressive and perhaps made well-intended efforts to keep students safe, that “Baggett” lady… https://t.co/bQPapYzL0f— Remington Knakk (@Remington Knakk)1585004992.0
Dr. Marybeth Davis Baggett is an absolute unstoppable legend for this. This article is so well written and clear,… https://t.co/2bIlpi2tPO— Fletch (@Fletch)1584924670.0
@brooke_buzz @JerryFalwellJr @newsadvance Dr. Baggett is LITERALLY one of the best professors I have ever had. Her… https://t.co/YSsvzpYlqu— Cody Alonso (@Cody Alonso)1585014060.0
They're echoing her warnings that Falwell's decision could be catastrophic.
Bloood on your hands when this inevitably goes wrong. https://t.co/KDTYleXxjL— Charlie (@Charlie)1585067513.0
Liberty University is about to rocket to the top of U.S. News & World Report's list of Top College and University V… https://t.co/hCaQAQsc09— Dan Pfeiffer (@Dan Pfeiffer)1585059440.0
We all know Jerry Falwell is not pro life. He will use god to convince others to get sick and die. If you are staf… https://t.co/NzkitVnrGE— Fred Guttenberg (@Fred Guttenberg)1585064790.0
This is a drink-the-Kool-Aid moment for Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell Jr. asking students and staff to ris… https://t.co/4m834eZNr2— Mark Jacob (@Mark Jacob)1585064502.0
I just hope @JerryFalwellJr is ready to accept the responsibility for any deaths of the elderly and infirm in Lynch… https://t.co/3QXL3mb3yi— Todd Pedlar (@Todd Pedlar)1585066830.0
Virginia governor Ralph Northam has forbid gatherings of more than ten people. It's unclear how Liberty University reopening will be able to comply with that policy.