President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump has tapped Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the conservative Christian Liberty University, to lead a task force on higher education.
Falwell told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the task force will focus on "overreaching regulation" by the federal government.
“The goal is to pare [regulation] back and give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs,” Falwell said.
While Falwell did not go into extensive detail, he said that he had "notebooks full of issues," including the new "borrower defense to repayment" regulations intended to help students get their loans forgiven if they can prove that they were defrauded by a predatory institution. Trump recently settled a case for $25 million after complainants argued that his for-profit Trump University had taken advantage of them.
Falwell is a member of a famous conservative Christian family; his father, Reverend Jerry Falwell, was a televangelist who founded Liberty University. The school's website lists its mission as "[educating] men and women who will make important contributions to their workplaces and communities, follow their chosen vocations as callings to glorify God, and fulfill the Great Commission."
Falwell was one of the first major evangelical leaders to endorse Trump and was once floated as a potential pick to lead the Department of Education, according to NBC.However, the nomination eventually went to Betsy DeVos.
His support was not limited to endorsements and campaign appearances: Joel Schmeig, the sports editor at the official school newspaper the Liberty Champion, alleges that Falwell forced him to pull a column where he criticized lewd comments Trump had made during a 2005 taping of Access Hollywood.
Falwell, who had praised Trump's "politically incorrect" style of speech, said that while "there was nothing defensible," about the tape, "we're all sinners" and a perfect presidential candidate is impossible.
"I've got a wife and daughter, and nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner," he added.
Under current regulations, Christian institutions like Liberty are exempt from Title IX requirements regarding LGBT students and abortion rights. If DeVos is confirmed, the two may make further changes to such regulations on higher education condemned by the conservative Christian community.
"The task force will be a big help to [DeVos]," Falwell told the Chronicle. "It will do some of the work for her."
The original version of this article, which was published on Feb. 1, included one paragraph, addressing news reports about Liberty University’s hiring of former Baylor University athletic director Ian McCaw to serve as its athletic director, that contained several errors. Specifically, Mr. McCaw was not himself subject to sexual assault accusations during his tenure at Baylor University; Liberty University is not facing, and has not faced, a Title IX investigation relating to Mr. McCaw’s tenure at Baylor University; and Mr. Falwell did not state that one of the reasons Liberty University was comfortable hiring Mr. McCaw, in the wake of news reports concerning his tenure at Baylor University, was that the events at issue preceded Liberty University’s hiring of him. The DP regrets these errors.
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