Racial unrest has spread to Liberty University both on campus and among its alumni ranks. Still, as the coming school year approaches, student enrollment is breaking records.
"I'm a proud Liberty grad – loved going to school there – and it was heartbreaking. I mean it was one of those type of things you feel like you have been sucker-punched," Liberty alumnus Maina Mwaura tells CBN News.
He's talking about a tweet by school president Jerry Falwell Jr. posted just days after George Floyd was killed.
In a comment about Gov. Ralph Northam's (D-VA) mask mandate, Falwell displayed a controversial photo from Northam's medical school yearbook page which notoriously shows students dressed in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
That night Mwaura couldn't sleep.
"Because when I look at my grandfather and grandmother and mom and dad who all were petrified of the KKK and blackface stuff, I had to really do some deep soul searching," Mwaura explains.
He helped organize this letter signed by 36 black LU alumni that read, "We are writing to urge you to stop this infantile behavior and lead our alma mater with dignity."
A total of nearly 40,000 other people have also signed on.
Twelve days later, Falwell deleted the tweet saying, "I understand by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor's racist past I actually refreshed the trauma that image caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point."
I have deleted the tweet and apologize for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community. (Part 3/3)
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) June 8, 2020
For many, however, the damage was done as several standout black athletes like Asia Todd chose to transfer.
"Due to the racial insensitivities shown within the leadership and culture it simply does not align with my moral compass or personal convictions," Todd said in a video posted to social media.
And in this cancel culture environment, Mwaura fears the damage isn't over.
"If we keep down this road as a university, then we could be looking at people canceling us and forfeiting even playing sports with us," he says.
In the midst of the turmoil, alumnus LeeQuan McLaurin stepped down as LU's Director of Diversity Retention.
It was a move he says was out of frustration when it became clear the university was unwilling to address Falwell's tweet or the racial justice debate.
"It was a lot of just 'ignore it and it will go away'," McLaurin told CBN News. He's launched his own Underground Railroad of sorts to help other black employees line up new jobs so they too can leave.
Falwell declined CBN's requests for an interview, but recently told Sebastian Gorka he's passionate about reuniting black and white conservative evangelical Christians.
"That's the only way the establishment Republicans and the Left has been able to keep power in this country is by dividing those two groups, and by God, I've made it my passion that by God Liberty University is going to be the institution that brings those two groups back together," Falwell said on Gorka's radio program.
Despite the controversy, the school is experiencing record online enrollment and expects to be full on-campus this fall, reporting 27 percent of its student body is black.
Many black alumni, however, say they can no longer recommend Liberty to students in their churches and communities.