Look who’s number 8

Jerry Falwell. A wide man with a narrow view who didn’t live to see his school become virtually large enough to take in nearly half a billion of federal dollars. He’s probably chuckling in heaven right now with Bob Jones and Father Coughlin (if they let Catholics in the Baptist part of heaven).

Liberty University, the evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell, announced that it “is now the nation’s eighth-largest, four-year university.” [It meant university with a four-year college, I think.]

Liberty says that it has 64,610 students, making it “the largest four-year college in Virginia, surpassing George Mason University (39,977 students), Virginia Commonwealth University (36,553 students), Virginia Tech (33,080 students) and University of Virginia (31,157 students).” While most of the students at those other schools actually attend class in person, only 10,332 do that at Liberty University. The remaining 54,278 are only a click (plus id and password and probably several other steps) away. Being 84% virtual probably does wonders for Liberty U’s costs–those 54,278 don’t take out library books, don’t put wear on the facilities, don’t tramp on the lawn, don’t raise the kind of hell that physical students do at homecoming or any of the other useless events that Liberty’s “competition” holds for most of its students.

An unidentified man, possibly one of the four creationist professors, in front of several of the casts and placards that prove the Creation of Life as explained in either Genesis 1 or 2. I’m not sure which version of Creation Liberty University teaches. Nor do I know why he is wearing a lab coat; these are casts after all. It is pretty cool, however, how he proved 150+ years of biological sciences wrong with one poster board exhibit. That thing surely one a science fair somewhere, no?

There are of course draw-backs to being one of the 54,278 virtual students. For example, the students on campus probably have a more fulfilling experience during the required course in the Center for Creations Studies Department, CRST 290–the History of Life. After all, those 54,278 students who take the course online are unable to view the extensive collection of this interdisciplinary program, which consists (entirely) of:

“a total of 33 skull casts, with five hand and feet skeletal casts and black models of hands and feet. The skulls casts are from male and female gorilla, chimpanzees and orangutans. There is also a coyote skull and hand cast and skull casts for scientific fossils such as Lucy, and the fossil hoax Piltdown Man. There is a human skull and hand cast as well. History place cards show some background information on creationism, one example being the comparison of Neanderthals to modern humans.”

It’s hard to see how the 54,278 students, without this impressive array of specimens, will be able to “defend their faith in the creation account in Genesis using science, reason, and the Scriptures” which is the avowed purpose of the course.

Liberty U’s logo: “Knowledge Aflame.” Is it me or is that a book burning?

On-line students will also be unable to attend the variety of stimulating conferences Liberty University sponsors such as the two-day examination of homosexuality held in February 2010: a one-day conferences entitled “Understanding Same-sex Attractions and Their Consequences” followed by a one-day symposium entitled “Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?” This free-ranging academic examination, following the same kind of freedom of inquiry that was permitted in say the original Jesuit colleges in the 1560s, was held under the auspices of the Law School, that cradle of liberty that gave us so many distinguished public servants in the GWB Administration.

You will probably not find many Liberty U alums in the current administration, because “The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine,” according to Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs and noted Liberty U theologian, in an email explaining why he banned the student Democratic Club in 2009. It seems that Jerry Falwell (fils, that is; père having by then entered paradise in all his glory) has since rectified the appearance of that (to maintain tax exempt status) by prohibiting any political club, including God’s Republican Party and the Holy Spirit’s Tea Party, from using Liberty U’s name or its burning-book logo. But it’s hard to deny that the Falangist point of view of Liberty U probably is not subscribed to by many, if any, Democrats (even Blue Dogs). So the graduates of Liberty U Law School, for instance, until the government is back in the hands of god-fearing, torture-promoting, tax-slashing, poor-oppressing, science-bashing reactionaries, will have to make their living in the private sector. No, not in law firms or industry; Liberty U. doesn’t actually provide an education that fits a young lawyer for real clients, but in the world of right-wing lobby firms, “think” tanks, political agit-prop groups and the like. Perhaps here and there a state will fall into the hands of the irrational and need some true believers to paper the files with legal “opinions.” But for now, the glory days are over.

But I didn’t post this to relive old times with you or bewail the sad state of employment opportunities for lawyers from a school named ironically. No. I bring up Liberty U. because the Lynchburg News & Advance reported on March 27 that Liberty U is now the 8th largest (indirect) recipient of student aid provided by the federal government. Liberty U students received about $445 million in federal financial aid money last fiscal year. This means that while Jesus of Nazareth and Mark Hine believe that it’s easier for a camel to make it through the eye of a needle than a recipient of federal pork to enter heaven, the school will nonetheless turn its gaze from students that are following a course to certain damnation. Baptists, after all, are not like the Catholic Dante, who couldn’t take his eyes off the damned.

But it’s not just that they accept the damned. (IRS rules might even require Liberty U. not to discriminate against the damned in order to maintain its tax exempt status.) They actively assist their prospective students in receiving that tempting mammon from the Beast of the Apocalypse, showing them even where to affix the Beast’s mark. Remember all that savings Liberty U achieved by growing principally by admitting virtual rather than real students? Where did it go, you might ask. The answer lies in the financial aid services (read: Mephistophelean bargain) office. Read how the Lynchburg News & Advance describes this socialism-enabler and hand-maiden of Lucifer:

The office operates like a well-oiled machine, with practices that take cues from the corporate world.

The school operates a 50-person call center that fields financial aid questions from students around the clock. Liberty collects statistics on each call to monitor its customer service. If students are on hold too long, for example, [Liberty U’s financial aid officer] Ritz knows it’s time to hire more phone operators.

When it comes to processing financial aid data, Ritz receives hourly reports that monitor that productivity and accuracy of his employees. The reports allow Ritz to spot red flags before they turn into bigger problems.

“That’s something Liberty does that’s very unique. We watch our data like hawks. Because that means whether or not students are getting the service they need.”

In order to get $445 million of the Beast’s money, you have to have a large staff. You have to have a bureaucracy, just like the Beast does, but only efficient, unlike the Beast’s:

This spring, Liberty is knee-deep in the processing of thousands of financial aid packages for incoming students. Ritz expects financial aid to increase by 15 to 20 percent for the upcoming school year.

To keep up, Liberty’s financial aid office has expanded from 51 to 138 employees over the past four years. By comparison, Lynchburg College employs four people in its financial aid office, while Randolph College and Sweet Briar employ three and two, respectively.

With six positions vacant and more needed to keep up with the work load, Ritz expects the Liberty financial aid office to reach 154 employees by July.

Liberty U’s students, collectively, are in the very top of recipients of federal largesse for “education.” Up there with University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, those other virtual, for-profit institutions of digital learning. The difference is Liberty U requires its students to learn about Young Earth Creation, in the hope that the demonic influence of the federal money might some day be overcome, and God will forgive them because they hate Darwin and all his works.

Ritz, the prime enabler of the students’ damnation, however, doesn’t advise them of the peril to their souls of dealing with the Beast. Instead he offers an explanation:  “These funds are authorized by Congress and Congress is elected by voters . . . I’ve always been in the position where I believe I’m a steward of those federal funds. I’m a steward of tax-payer money.” And don’t forget, Liberty U doesn’t actually receive the money directly from the federal government. Or rather, even though it does, it’s in the name of the students. Therefore it is not inconsistent with Liberty U’s theology.

I don’t know about you, but to me, this explanation doesn’t appear to be especially Baptist. It sounds more like the kind of reasoning in those schools in the 1560s–where they trained priests to go out into the world and burn books.

  1. I’m reminded of the fundamentalist splinter group of Mormons, the ones who left the main LDS church because they still wanted to practice polygyny, with their encouraging all their members to commit welfare fraud.

    I think they have similar ideas about the US government being satanic, which is probably how they justify stealing from it.

    There’s probably also a thought process along the lines of, “We follow the True Religion, and you don’t, so of course it’s OK for us to take your money and not abide by your laws.”

    (Also, I am hugely depressed that the number of students going to Liberty U is bigger than the number of people attending my alma mater, which is an actual, real university that teaches real things. I had this idea that places like Liberty U, though they may churn out a disproportionate number of people who go on to hold positions of power, were nonetheless very small, a fringe element.)

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