Kelvin Edwards was hired in Liberty University’s Office of Equity and Inclusion in the summer of 2020… which, you might recall, was probably the worst possible time to start working at the school. The sex scandals that ended the career of the school’s president Jerry Falwell, Jr. hadn’t been fully exposed at the time.
But nothing that transpired with Falwell was Edwards’ fault. This looked like a great job. His title was special: “Executive Vice President of Management Efficiencies and Diversity.” It paid $275,000 a year, in addition to numerous other perks, and his contract with the school apparently guaranteed a 10-year deal. But the former Liberty student and one-time pro football player, who was brought on to help the school’s efforts in diversifying its student body, was soon fired.
After Falwell resigned, the school’s acting president, Jerry Prevo, told Edwards he wasn’t needed in his position, demoted him, and cut his salary. Then, weeks later, Prevo fired him.
Now Edwards has filed an $8 million lawsuit against Liberty, claiming he’s the victim of race discrimination in violation of state and federal law in addition to the claim that there was a breach of contract.
“It became clear that Prevo did not believe in diversity efforts based at Liberty,” the complaint alleges. “In fact, during that same time frame, Mr. Edwards heard Prevo comment there were ‘too many people’ in diversity and inclusion.”
The complaint also claims that only two of 28 executives and senior leaders at Liberty are African American.
In a statement Monday to a local television station, the school said that “Liberty University rejects the claims of Kelvin Edwards and will prove them false through the legal process.” The statement also said Prevo had determined that hiring Edwards was “among his predecessor’s mistakes” but claimed the school had tried to find him another job with the institution.
Imagine doubling the number of Black people in senior leadership at your university — to two — then implying there’s too much focus on diversity.
This isn’t the first time that allegations of racism have been made against Liberty. The school lost many of its most prominent athletes and educators precisely because of its failures to grapple with racism. Whether Edwards’ lawsuit will be successful is another question, but there’s no doubt his experience wasn’t unique.
If Liberty’s leaders ever listened to people of color on campus, they would have known that.