"Under Mr. Falwell, [Liberty University] has not been a good example of Christian higher education," a former student wrote in a New York Times op-ed
Jerry Falwell Jr.
Jerry Falwell Jr.
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty

After 13 years at the helm of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr. stepped down this week amid scandal – a move that has brought the Christian school’s students and alumni a sense of relief, members of the community told The New York Times.

Falwell, 58, has already weathered several storms while serving as president and chancellor of the school his evangelist father founded in 1971.

But a sex scandal that broke this week in which a former Miami pool attendant claimed to have had an affair with Falwell’s wife Becki while Falwell watched seemed to be the final straw; Liberty announced the resignation of Falwell, who has disputed the man’s claims, on Tuesday.

“Much of the Liberty community has greeted the news of his resignation with relief,” alum Kaitlyn Schiess wrote in a Times op-ed. “Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world and arguably the most prominent example of Christian higher education in America. But under Mr. Falwell, it has not been a good example of Christian higher education.”

Schiess, who attended Liberty from 2012 to 2016, called Falwell’s latest drama a “strange, sordid saga,” and wrote that his behavior was a prime example of the lesson she’d learned throughout her Christian education that sin is misdirected love, and people must learn how to focus their love properly.

Jerry Falwell Jr., Becki Falwell, Giancarlo Granda
From left: Jerry Falwell Jr., Becki Falwell and Giancarlo Granda
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty; Shannon Finney/Getty; Facebook

“Yet evangelicals — and Liberty, in particular — have often neglected this focus, falsely believing that if we know the right information, we will act rightly,” she said. “What we’re seeing in Mr. Falwell now are the consequences of that neglect.”

Schiess also referenced a “thirst for political power” — Falwell has many ties to President Donald Trump —and wrote that Falwell’s behavior as a leader provided “evidence that proximity to power is its own kind of education,” one that involves “sexual immorality, degraded moral judgment and financial malpractice.”

Liberty University students are not allowed to drink alcohol, and per the Student Honor Code, sexual relations “outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman” are “not permissible.”

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Meanwhile, current Liberty students who spoke to the Times shared Schiess’ view on Falwell, with junior Eli Best expressing disappointment in his alleged moral shortcomings.

“I wasn’t expecting him to be a spiritual leader, but I was expecting him to be a spiritual example,” Best said. “The president of a university not abiding by his own standards, in terms of bars and alcohol and sexuality — all those stories, that tipped me off. It was like a flashing sign in our faces.”

Added senior Brooke Smoke: “I think everybody had been waiting for this. Thank God, the witch is dead.”

An attorney for Falwell and a spokesperson for Liberty University did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Becki
Becki and Jerry Falwell Jr.
| Credit: Jerry Falwell Jr./Instagram

The marriage between Falwell and his wife Becki, 53, was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week after Giancarlo Granda, 29, alleged he and Becki had an “intimate relationship” from 2012 to 2018, with Falwell looking on.

Granda told Reuters in a bombshell interview that after meeting the Falwells at a Miami Beach hotel in 2012, he would meet up with them several times a year over the next six years to have sex with Becki while “Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room.”

The Washington Post reported that Becki confirmed an extramarital affair — and described it as embarrassing and humbling — but said Jerry was not involved in any way.

Falwell, meanwhile, disputed Granda’s claims in a statement to the Washington Examiner, and said he had no part in the sexual relationship.

“That’s the only reason I resigned: because I don’t want something my wife did to harm the school I’ve spent my whole life building,” he told the Associated Press. “I never broke a single rule that applies to staff members at Liberty, which I was. So I want everybody to know that.”

Falwell also accused Granda of extorting him, and threatening to make the affair with Becki public unless he was paid “substantial monies,” something Granda denied to the outlet.