What an inspiring story! I hoped, and I so wanted to believe, but I confess that I really thought that the traitorous, unethical Sweet Briar College board had delivered a fatal blow to this storied all-woman’s college by operating by surprise and stealth, waiting to announce its plan to close the institution so late in the academic year as to render counter-measures futile.
Like that disgraceful crew, I underestimated the determined women of Sweet Briar and their allies.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office announced Saturday night that an agreement has been reached to keep Sweet Briar College open next year.
The agreement, which requires court approval, involves a $12 million commitment from an alumnae group and permission from the attorney general to release $16 million from the school’s endowment.
The president of the private women’s college in rural Virginia shocked many in March when he abruptly announced that the college, which is more than 100 years old, would close in the summer. Since then, supporters have been working feverishly to save the school, protesting, raising money and filing lawsuits challenging the closure.
On Saturday, Herring’s office announced that — if Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James W. Updike Jr. approves the agreement — Saving Sweet Briar, the alumnae group, would give $12 million for the operation of the college for the 2015-2016 year, with the first $2.5 million installment to be delivered in early July….
Both the alumnae group and other challengers to the closure say the funding would be enough to keep the school operating for the 2015-2016 academic year.
The agreement comes barely a month before the historic school was slated to close — and in advance of court hearings on multiple lawsuits. It does not resolve the ongoing issues that the school’s current leadership cited in making the decision to close, such as concerns about enrollment and revenue. It does not explain where next year’s class will come from, since accepted students were told to apply elsewhere and current students were told to transfer. But it provides a stopgap…
Leadership would change: If the agreement is approved, at least 13 board members would resign, and 18 new ones would be appointed — a majority that would control the board…
Obviously, a lot of hard work still needs to be done. The school needs to find additional benefactors, funding, and support, not to mention a student body. The new leadership must be creative, bold and effective. Luck is also essential. Nonetheless, Sweet Briar just made a strong argument for why young women seeking an education that confers character, courage and leadership ability as well as knowledge and life skills should seriously consider coming to this unique institution. Its community of graduates just proved how well Sweet Briar trained and inspired them, and they have demonstrated their loyalty and gratitude in return.
An arrogant board that was willing to abandon the Sweet Briar mission has learned the hard way why that mission was worth fighting for. Don’t bet against Sweet Briar. I think they can and will do what needs to be done to preserve and strengthen the school. I also think any feminist who has a genuine interest in acting rather than talking should delineate the distinction by contributing generously to Sweet Briar’s revival.
I will be particularly keen to see how much the Clinton Foundation contributes to the cause. But I digress; we can point out the fakes, false friends, hypocrites and slackers another day. For now, my happiness is unalloyed, and I am so thrilled about this unexpected development.
Congratulations, Sweet Briar alumnae!
You inspire us all.