A group of Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas in protest over President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s continuing support of President Trump, reports Refinery29.
Falwell’s support of President Trump has been a point of contention for a number of alumni for months. However, his defense of Trump’s statements about the recent violence in Charlottesville went way too far for many of them. Falwell praised Trump’s condemning remarks about “both sides” at the white nationalist rally where three people died and many more were injured, tweeting,“Bold truthful stmt about #Charlottesville tragedy. So proud of @RealDonaldTrump.”
Some of the displeased alumni started a Facebook group last week to unify a way to return their diplomas to the school. The group has since grown to about 300 members. In the description, alumni explain that they’ve been unhappy with Falwell’s leadership for some time. The group calls for alumni who feel the same way to send their diplomas back by September 5, and to include a letter that explains why they don’t want to be affiliated with the school anymore.
Christy Nettekoven Spears, 31, graduated from Liberty in 2009 and told Refinery29 she plans to address her concerns with Falwell’s continuing political involvement. In her opinion, “he should be willing to bend his ear toward the alumni, and the students, and the faculty and see our heart.” She wants Falwell to step back from politics as a whole, but more than that, she wants him “to stop aligning the university with the current administration.”
This isn’t the first time Falwell’s support of the president has earned him backlash from the student body and alumni. Trump gave the 2017 commencement speech at Liberty, and while it’s true a great deal of the student body did vote for him in November, according to The Washington Post, a significant group has always been vocally opposed to Trump and the university’s support of him.
A student group called Liberty United Against Trump issued a statement in October following the release of the infamous tape in which the then-candidate bragged about grabbing women’s genitals and not needing consent to do so, and Falwell’s subsequent support for Trump, saying “we’re all sinners.” The statement declared that “Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. . . He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Falwell tried to clarify that his tweet praised Trump for calling out the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He also called the violence in Charlottesville “pure evil,” but the students already planning to return their diplomas were swayed from sending back their diplomas in order to denounce the university’s continuing support of President Trump.