The Sweet Briar closing, which was first raised as an ethics issue in the post, “The Sweet Briar Betrayal, has attracted many new readers and commenters to Ethics Alarms from the all-women Virginia college’s alumnae and supporters. Things are starting to move fast in the situation, with an investigation looming and questions being asked by the state legislature. Enlightening us further on this troubling story is faculty member Marcia Thom Kaley; here is her Comment of the Day on the post Comment of the Day: “Why The Sweet Briar College Fight Matters”:
I can assure you that your comments, concerns and, yes, demands are absolutely in the forefront of everyone’s minds as we begin a new week. The faculty (of which I am a member) are beginning to ask the same questions each of you asked. We have been reeling from the implications of severance/no severance – simply in a state of shock which has evaporated into a sense of betrayal and anger. I am mostly concerned for our senior faculty who have, literally, spent most of their academic lives at home on the campus. I am equally – deeply -concerned for the students who are attempting to find other homes – if even temporary ones – in which to continue their educations. The callous actions of our Board simply cannot be condoned nor tolerated.
I have always heard that when an institution begins to bring in the consultants, things are already out of hand. Indeed, to my memory, we brought in two separate groups of consultants at, I am sure, enormous (yet undisclosed) expense. Apparently, some time ago the brilliant findings of one of these groups was to merge Sweet Briar and Hollins. Now, I recently received my Master’s Degree from Hollins – but what crazy person thought this solution was a good plan? The cry of “what the hell is going on” is resounding across the campus and, indeed, across many, many public corridors. All I can tell you, is that we will not be dismissed nor ignored. We simply owe it to the strong, empowered women who are fighting for us to join them in their stance to protect the legacy of Indiana Fletcher Williams. I hope to meet you both. I hope to laugh and cry with my students who are truly in the middle of the most remarkable “experiential learning experience” of their lives as we celebrate success. I hope to, truly, be remembered as one of the people who was never afraid to stand up and fight with women who believe that there is much, much more at stake here than faculty jobs or severance pay. This is about honor, integrity and responsibility. This is about what “Sweet Briar Women” ARE all about….
I would also like to point out that time and time again, “consultants” have been the folks who seemed to have been running the college (literally running it into the ground) or, better yet, not caring enough to run it AT ALL! Apparently, they advised against organizing another capital campaign for the college in very recent years, claiming there were just not enough donor dollars available. Very interesting considering the two previous campaigns – 1996 and 2006 – netted $38.5 million and $110 million, respectively. There has definitely been a lack of leadership among those who, supposedly, were charged to “lead”. Very unfortunately, so much of the truth has been kept from the faculty, alumnae and students that we, simply, do not know what to believe. I for one, however, am sticking to what I DO know – someone who fires you and closes the place you work – probably does NOT have your best interest at heart! If we can stay out of the sketchy financials (which can be confusing), we can easily understand that we have been under-represented, over trusting and treated as though we were insignificant players. It is a mistake to ever treat anyone this way – much less a group of strong women who are keenly aware that Sweet Briar College exists solely because a mother was grieving the premature death of her only child. That, my friends, is an unspoken bond among women – you simply shouldn’t mess with….