Winter frolic at Liberty snowballs into controversy
Lynchburg university's interim president apologizes for unmasked snowball fight
It’s no Falwell-sized scandal, but interim Liberty University President Jerry Prevo issued an apology Tuesday for a snowball fight that got out of hand on Sunday morning.
“This past Sunday morning as I opened the curtains and looked outside, I saw a Liberty University campus covered in deep snow. Having lived in Alaska for the past 50 years, I own a lifetime of memories of joy spent in outdoor winter fun with friends. Lynchburg hasn’t seen a good snow in over two years, and much of our student body comes from areas of the country that never see snow at all,” starts the apology statement.
“I donned my gloves and coat and headed outside and immediately engaged in some snowball fights with a few students. From that small beginning, I invited them to meet on the front lawn to continue the fun with more students. The student body took to the idea, they showed up in large numbers and had the snowball fight. I stood front and center and led this event.”
The only problem? The crowd wasn’t wearing masks during the super snowball fight, so the event could have been a COVID-19 super-spreader. “I messed up,” Prevo admitted. “We did not think through or communicate the need to wear facial coverings and remain 6 feet apart in compliance with [the] Virginia governor’s executive orders for the suppression of the spread of COVID-19 or even our own COVID-19 operations plan. And the size of the group was not in compliance either.”
Prevo apologized for the breach in coronavirus protocol and said that social media photos of the snowball fight — which went viral over the past two days — have been taken down in the event they “undermine a culture of compliance.” He added that the university’s students and staff members will “rededicate ourselves” to following COVID protocols, including physical distancing and wearing masks.
Last year, under former president Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty ran into criticism regarding COVID, as it was the only Virginia university to welcome back students to campus after spring break in March 2020, during a time when most schools across the country were asking students to shelter in place as the pandemic hit the nation. Falwell resigned last August after a series of controversies and scandals, leaving Prevo as interim president.
With more than 108,000 online students enrolled as of July 2020, in addition to more than 15,000 students on its Lynchburg campus, Liberty is the state’s largest university by enrollment and one of the world’s largest private Christian universities.