President of Christian College to Lead Higher Ed Task Force

AP

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian-based Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been asked to lead a task force about higher education in the U.S.

The news was reported by the Chronicle for Higher Education, a publisher of education news since 1966. Its website has a monthly online readership of nearly 2 million unique visitors.

The Chronicle reported that Falwell said he would evaluate what he called “overreaching regulation” and micromanagement by the U.S. Department of Education. He cited accreditation, student recruitment and regulations as concerns.

“The goal is to pare it back and give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs,” Falwell told the Chronicle.

He said he had discussed possible issues with other college leaders and an accrediting agency for the past two months. “I’ve got notebooks full of issues,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit schools. Instead, a middle layer of regional accreditation agencies does, which the Education Department selects.

Falwell said President Donald Trump asked him to take the position, the Chronicle said. He said he released the news about his task force role after Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, gave him permission.

He told The News and Advance of Lynchburg that “there would be two presidential task forces on education” and he would lead both.

Title IX probe

Earlier this month, the Department of Education launched a Title IX investigation at Liberty University, The News and Advance reported. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in programs or activities at educational institutions receiving federal money. Liberty University receives about $445 million in federal funding.

“Liberty University takes all complaints of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination seriously and fully complies with the law when allegations are made,” a school statement said.

The school has 15,000 residential students and more than 100,000 online students, according to the university website.

It admits students from more than 80 countries, including South Korea, Canada, China, Nigeria and Brazil. Nationally, most students come from Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, its website says.

The Christian school mandates behavior and dress codes, such as “skirts/dresses [no shorter than two inches above the knee]” and “shorts are not permitted for class.”

Also, the school states, “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University.”

In 2014, Liberty appealed to the Education Department to request a religious exemption from Title IX amendments “to impose discipline on students who have abortions,” according to the department’s response.

The Education Department declined the request.

“Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance,” the department responded. “The implementing regulation … prohibits a recipient from discriminating against any student on the basis of a student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.”

This story first appeared in VOANews.com

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Kathleen Struck

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