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Students Flock to Liberty University

One of today's graduates, Jeff Mazanec, 21, a political science major from Chicago who will attend William & Mary law school in the fall, said he came from a fundamentalist home and had little difficulty adjusting to Liberty. "You perform the way you dress," he said of the dress code. "Most students choose to follow the rules," he said, although "I've heard of a few sneaking a drink or smoking pot."

But many students expressed satisfaction with the regulations, some of which they suggested.

Doris Gaffney, 22, from Spartansburg, S.C., who transferred to Liberty from Tennessee Temple University, also a fundamentalist school, said her new school "tries to make you excel at what you are best at. They don't try to make you into a Jerry Falwell."

Students said some rules have been relaxed from early days, when only Disney movies were shown and interracial dating was banned.

Dawn Simms, 22, a prenursing sophomore from Levittown, Pa., who is black, said that when mixed couples want to date, "the school calls both sets of parents to see if they know about it." That's all right with her, she said. "Parents should be a part of what you do."

"Christians are supposed to be different," added Michelle Brown, 18, a freshman from Chesapeake, Va.

The lure of Falwell's television program, shown on more than 500 stations, has attracted students from all 50 states and 30 foreign countries.

Maureen Crum, 18, is a sophomore biology major from Wasilla, Alaska, who opted for Liberty after attending revival services conducted by Falwell.

Crum said she was attracted to Liberty because it teaches both evolution and creationism. The biology major was certified last year only after the Virginia Board of Higher Education questioned whether evolution was being taught at all at Liberty.

As of May 1, Liberty had received 2,186 applications from would-be freshmen, compared to 1,135 at the same time last year. All applicants who are high school graduates will be accepted if they agree to sign a pledge that they are born-again Christians and will follow "The Liberty Way."

"It's not good enough that someone sprinkled water on your head when you were three," said admissions director Tom Diggs. "You must be born again."

Liberty's students reflect a wide range of abilities. Last year's 1,600 freshmen scored an average of 415 in mathematics and 389 on the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitute Test. The national SAT average was 426 on verbal and 471 on math. As class valedictorians or salutatorians, 350 of them qualified for chancellor's scholarships, but one-fourth were required to enroll in one of five remedial courses.


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