Liberty Universitys accrediting body has had no formal communication with the college since a flurry of recent media reports have alleged misconduct under President Jerry Falwell Jr.s leadership, the organizations president said Thursday, contradicting an earlier account.
We have not yet written a letter to Liberty, said Belle Wheelan, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the accrediting body told The News & Advance the commission asked Liberty in a letter to share their side of the story after reports in Politico Magazine and Reuters highlighted allegations of financial and personal impropriety by Falwell.
Both outlets published internal university emails and Politico cited multiple unnamed sources described as current and former Liberty employees.
Falwell, who spoke with the The News & Advance in an interview on Sept. 12, denied any misconduct and said he has asked the FBI to investigate the origin of the leaked emails.
On Thursday morning the same spokesperson for the accrediting body reached out to The News & Advance to retract the earlier statement. The spokesperson also called Falwell to personally apologize for the mistake.
I accepted her apology, Falwell said Thursday.
Reached by phone, Wheelan, a former secretary of education for Virginia who also once served as the president of Central Virginia Community College, said the commissions spokesperson had confused Liberty with the University of South Carolina.
It was a new employee who just mixed them up, she said, explaining the commission had sent a letter to USC regarding its recent search for a new president.
In August, the commission asked USC to address concerns about allegations of political influence in the college boards decision to hire a retired general, according to a report published Tuesday by The Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina.
Wheelan said the commission regularly monitors media reports, including the recent allegations against Falwell published in Reuters and Politico Magazine. She declined to discuss the allegations and how they could relate to accreditation standards.
Libertys accreditation was last reaffirmed in 2016, a formal review process that occurs every 10 years. If the commission does launch an inquiry, any action the accrediting body may take in response will occur at the commissions board meeting in Houston, Texas in early December.
Scott Lamb, senior vice president of university communications, said Thursday the university is prepared to respond to any questions from the commission and will continue to cooperate with the accreditation process. He confirmed the university has not been in contact with the commission about recent media reports.
Richard Chumney covers breaking news for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.
Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.
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