LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — A Liberty University associate professor has been charged with sexual battery and abduction involving an alleged incident with a student, according to court records and the university.
Liberty University police arrested William Atwell on Nov. 20 and charged him with sexual battery and abduction by force or intimidation related to an incident on Sept. 15, news outlets reported.
“Liberty University takes nothing more seriously than claims that a faculty member has had inappropriate sexual contact with one of our students, something for which there is zero tolerance,” a Liberty University spokesperson said in a statement.
The statement confirmed the arrest and added in the statement that the matter was turned over to the appropriate legal authorities with the student's consent.
The university suspended Atwell pending the outcome of the case, according to the statement. It did not elaborate on the circumstances that led to the professor's arrest.
Atwell, who is listed in a faculty directory as an associate professor of American Sign Language, was released from the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center on Monday after posting a $3,000 bond. He has a court appearance set for Jan. 25.
Online court records do not name an attorney for Atwell.
The charges against Atwell come as Liberty University faces lawsuits alleging the university punished women who reported sexually assaults on campus. One lawsuit filed over the summer by 12 women alleged the school had a pattern of mishandling cases of sexual assault and harassment and had fostered an unsafe campus environment.