Liberty University President Jerry Prevo expressed his regret over a campus snowball fight that took place on Sunday and resulted in a severe backlash from the community because COVID-19 safety protocols were ignored.
As snow blanketed the Liberty campus for the first time in more than two years, students cooped-up for months by the COVID-19 pandemic threw caution to the wind, joining the university president in an impromptu snowball fight on the Academic Lawn.
However, while happily enjoying a sudden bit of winter fun, none of the participants were reported to have worn masks and no social distancing was observed, provoking a maelstrom of complaints and criticism.
This is Liberty University, Lynchburg VA. Aka the largest Christian college in the world. They don’t enforce their students to wear masks. Instead they invite them all (not even two weeks after coming back) to have a snowball fight. pic.twitter.com/9nGfqaFPlm
— Hattiebelle ✨ (@Hattiebelle2) February 1, 2021
In a statement released Tuesday, Prevo said, “I messed up. We did not think through or communicate the need to wear facial coverings and remain 6 feet apart in compliance with Virginia Governor’s Executive Orders for the suppression of the spread of COVID-19 or even our own COVID-19 Operations Plan.”
Prevo explained that the incident was not a result of intended defiance but a case of poor judgment since college administration was distracted by the significant snowfall.
He acknowledged that the mistake may have cast the university and its students in a negative light, apologizing if it seemed as though the event intentionally disregarded the hard work of frontline employees and volunteers.
Negative Community Response
Upon seeing the evidence of the incident, most of the Lynchburg community was in an uproar. A spokesperson for the Virginia Health Department reported that they have received more than 100 complaints since Sunday.
Carter Elliott, a Lynchburg resident, was incensed about the dangers that the snowball fight posed for other people. He told WFXR, “The elderly person that shops at Kroger down the street does not sign up to get COVID-19 from some Liberty student that participated in a couple of hundred-person snowball events.”
Ben Grey, who has family and friends in the area, was worried about their safety. He said, “Seeing how LU is in the public eye from all the previous political events and scandals, it would have been nice to at least see them promoting proper health and safety standards to the rest of the community and the nation at large.”