The head of a prominent Christian university in the US has apologised after getting involved in a mass snowball fight on campus.
Liberty University president Jerry Prevo said he was a chief instigator of the fight, which saw hundreds of maskless students openly flouting social distancing guidelines.
Having lived in snow-laden Alaska for the majority of his life, and spurred on by "a lifetime of memories of joy spent in outdoor winter fun with friends," Prevo decided to wade out into the snow and get involved.
"I donned my gloves and coat and headed outside and immediately engaged in some snowball fights with a few students," he said in a statement. "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 centre and led this event."
Liberty University President Jerry Prevo in attendance at the snowball fight. Source: Facebook
Many responded to Liberty's social media postings about the event with accusations that they were putting the community at risk. "'Snowball fight' is a weird way to spell 'superspreader event,'" one person wrote in reply.
Another added: "We’re in the middle of a pandemic, in case you weren’t aware."
Prevo admitted that he had made a mistake in allowing the fight to go ahead without Covid-19 restrictions in place.
"I messed up," he said. "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 own Covid-19 Operations Plan. And the size of the group was not in compliance either."
Prevo said that Liberty has had "a strong record of compliance and containment of Covid-19 from the start" and insisted 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," he said.
"I and my leadership team apologise 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."
Prevo noted that the university had taken down all the social media posts related to the event.
"I am firmly committed to the health and safety of our students at Liberty University, as well as their spiritual and emotional health," he concluded. "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."