Liberty University President Jerry Prevo says he “messed up” when he encouraged a large on-campus snowball fight Sunday, one that created a social media firestorm showing large numbers of students in close quarters without masks.

FROM LIBERTY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT JERRY PREVO: 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 fifty 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.

Image: Liberty Champion

Image: Liberty Champion

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.

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 ownCOVID-19 Operations Plan. And the size of the group was not in compliance either.

We made a mistake in not enforcing the guidelines that we have followed routinely and sincerely for these many months. We have had a strong record of compliance and containment of COVID-19 from the start, and we want our community to know that Sunday’s snowball event was not done with a heart of defiance. The mistake was one of being caught up in the moment of the day. I and my leadership team apologize for not leading our students to abide by COVID-19 protocols during this event. I am truly sorry for how this activity may put our students and university in a negative light, potentially diminishing the hard work of many dedicated employees and volunteers. We rededicate ourselves to our solid commitment to communicating and reinforcing to students, faculty, and staff the mandate to comply with all COVID-19 policies, including physical distancing and the wearing of facial coverings.

 In conjunction with this announcement, we have also taken down the social media posts about this event, which could tend to undermine a culture of compliance.

I am firmly committed to the health and safety of our students at Liberty University, as well as their spiritual and emotional health. We hope to foster more fun and excitement for our students in the days ahead, but we will do so while abiding by our health and safety protocols.