Thousands of Liberty University students are expected to return to their dorms in Lynchburg, Virginia, after the school’s president ordered the campus reopened, according to The News and Advance.
Despite colleges across the country choosing to close in light of the coronavirus pandemic, President Jerry Falwell Jr. — who has downplayed the coronavirus threat in recent weeks — said reopening is the best decision for his students. The decision also impacts faculty, as faculty members were also ordered to return to campus, even as most classes will be moved online.
Between several hundred and 5,000 students are expected to return to dorms, Falwell said, and “hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours,” the publication reported.
“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,” Falwell said in an interview over the weekend.
“I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”
Meanwhile, the coronavirus threat in Virginia is growing, The News and Advance Noted: “The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the Lynchburg region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died.”
Despite this, Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center will remain open; however, Governor Ralph Northam ordered “all places of indoor public amusement as well as fitness centers, and salons that cannot comply with social distancing guidelines” to close on Wednesday, and it is unclear how the university will be affected.
The school has taken some steps to help minimize the virus’ spread, the report indicated: “Gatherings in campus buildings, including a handful of classes still holding in-person meetings, are capped at 10 people” as ordered by the governor.