Liberty University will launch an independent investigation of “all facets” of the school’s operations under former president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership, the school’s board announced Monday.
The board hired an outside firm to investigate the school’s financial, real estate, and legal matters under Falwell, who resigned last week after 13 years as president. The evangelical school’s board said in a statement it was “committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president,” the Associated Press reported.
A string of personal controversies had plagued Falwell leading up to his resignation last week, including the revelation that a young business partner of the Falwell family, Giancarlo Granda, said he had had a yearslong sexual relationship with Becki Falwell and that Jerry Falwell had at times participated as a voyeur.
The Falwells admitted that the affair happened, but said Jerry Falwell wasn’t involved and that Granda had threatened to blackmail them by revealing the relationship unless the couple agreed to pay him off.
Ahead of his departure, Falwell was on an indefinite leave of absence after posting a photo on social media of himself standing next to his wife’s pregnant assistant with their pants unzipped. He said it was taken at a costume party during vacation but the photos caused outrage among critics who said the behavior was hypocritical as the head of a university that makes students abide by a strict moral code of conduct.
The Falwells said they support Liberty’s board and “welcome any inquiry as we have nothing to hide.”
Falwell became president in 2007 after his father, Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr, a famous evangelist, died. Under the younger Falwell, Liberty grew its online program and endowment and improved its athletics programs, but critics have long called for his resignation.
“Some may say that all the signs were there for a long time before last week,” the statement said. “It’s certainly fair to say that there were questionable comments made, worrying behavior, and inappropriate social media posts, but all the signs were not there until the start of last week.”
The board also said it is looking into establishing a role at the university aimed at providing spiritual guidance for university leaders to ensure they “live out the Christian walk expected of each and every one of us at Liberty.”