LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) — Liberty University President Jerry Prevo announced the school will spend about $8.5 million to install cameras and “blue light boxes” as the university faces lawsuits claiming LU mishandled sexual assault allegations.
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Prevo made the announcement during convocation on Wednesday, an event where the student body comes together. He said the "blue light boxes," or emergency call boxes, will be located around campus to allow students to quickly call police.
He said he didn’t want students to be afraid to come forward if they were assaulted, and that there would be more “training,” but he also discouraged false reporting.
“If you’re doing something wrong, don’t claim that something happened to you that was false, alright?” Prevo said.
A lawsuit filed in April by 12 anonymous women claims that Liberty University silenced and sometimes punished these women under their honor code, “The Liberty Way.” The newest version of the “Liberty Way” honor code is not public, but the 2020 version could previously be found online, though that link appears to be dead now. That document states that the university can issue “points” to students for breaking the “Liberty Way,” potentially making them pay a fine and perform community service hours. For example, the document online says they could fine students $300 for drinking alcohol or spending the night with a member of the opposite sex.
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Sources with the lawsuit tell ABC13 more women are signing onto the lawsuit, bringing the number to 22 women.
“It’s been insinuated that if you are, let’s say, violated the Liberty Way, and during your violation of that Liberty Way, you are sexually abused, sexually harassed, sexually assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking, you are not going to be disciplined for that if you come and you have a legitimate complaint that you have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, dating and domestic violence, you’re going to have what we call amnesty,” Prevo said. “We do not want you to be afraid to come forward thinking that you’re going to have to give an account of what you were doing when that happened.”
Prevo also said he’s not there to “cover-up” complaints.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Scott Lamb, LU’s former senior vice president of communications and public engagement, says he was fired on Oct. 6, 2021, at the direction of President Prevo. He alleges that it was because he voiced concern about how university leadership was handling sexual assault complaints, specifically allegations made in the lawsuit Jane Does 1-12 v. Liberty University Inc.
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“I do not know what happened before I came, but I can tell you this, we’re not going to try to cover up anything,” Prevo said. “We’re going to look back, have that investigated, and also, if we’ve done wrong, we’re going to correct that wrong the best we can.”
The announcement about cameras and blue light boxes comes as students show support for the Jane Does in the lawsuit and call on the university for changes.
A group called “Justice for Janes” started a petition in September. That petition calls for an independent audit of LU’s Human Resources and Title IX offices, universal amnesty and emergency call boxes.
The group posted on Instagram, reading, in part, “Make no mistake, the fight isn’t over until we get the audit. Period. That is the final prize.”
During Prevo’s announcement Wednesday, he said he had asked why the university didn’t already have these. Prevo has been a member of the Liberty University Board of Trustees since 1996 and filled the role of Board Chairman since 2003, according to his biography on Liberty university’s website.
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Prevo said last April, he said the school needed more cameras.
“I may get in trouble with our board because I authorized about 8.5 million dollars to do this right here-- cameras. So if I get in trouble for that, will you all come to my support?” Prevo asked the crowd.
According to a study released last year by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Liberty's $1.6 billion endowment portion of its $2 billion in investments puts Liberty in the top 100 schools with the largest endowments in the United States.
Prevo then reiterated his statement that he wants students to feel free to come forward if they are assaulted. He added, “There will be some more training that will go forward.” Though, he did not specify what kind of training or when that would occur.
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He then ended his speech by throwing Halloween candy to the students.
“I said, ‘what are we going to do with all that candy?’” Prevo said at the end of his speech to the crowd.