Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has been steadfastly refusing to shut down the campus in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. While there are options for students to log into classes remotely, they are still being encouraged to return to the university when spring break ends, and faculty members have no choice but to return because they haven’t been given the option to stay home.
English Professor Marybeth Davis Baggett, who teaches at the university, aired her concerns in a piece she wrote for Religion News Service, where she urged Falwell to heed the science as the crisis continues to deepen.
“This foolhardy decision tracks Falwell’s conspiratorial thinking about COVID-19 and smacks of defiance,” she writes.
“He has repeatedly made clear that he canceled residential classes for legal, not moral, reasons. In fact, his public comments on the pandemic have manifested bravado, self-congratulation, and callousness in the extreme, as he even this week on the Todd Starnes radio show spewed far-fetched, unsubstantiated, and misleading information about the coronavirus outbreak.”
Baggett noted that since Falwell is in such a prominent position, these are some dangerous notions.
“For one charged with leading a Christian institution of higher learning, these are troubling qualities, fundamentally at odds with both Christian faith convictions and an academic mindset. For a leader dealing with such a situation of such magnitude, they are outright terrifying.”
Baggett wants to see others get involved in the decision-making.
“I have no animus toward Jerry Falwell Jr,” she writes. “He simply should not have a monopoly on this decision. I think he is dangerously wrong here and seems unable or unwilling to recognize it. For that reason, the decision must be taken out of his hands. I speak up for his benefit as well, since his current plan is courting a disaster for which he would be primarily to blame.”
Here’s the audio version of Falwell Jr. speaking on Starnes’s radio program.