With 100 years of providing liberal arts education to women around the country under their belts, Sweet Briar College needed prayers and an agreement to remain open next year. With the help of the Virginia Attorney General, plenty of outside support, and the Saving Sweet Briar movement, the university received both.
Saturday night, the acclaimed women’s college, tucked in the town of Sweet Briar, Virgina, reached an agreement which would keep Sweet Briar College open through the 2015-2016 school year. The agreement, pending court approval, would provide $26 million dollars to the financially troubled school. An alumnae group would provide $12 million from their coffers and $16 million from Sweet Briar College’s endowment fund which would require Mark R. Herring, Virginia’s AG, to provide written consent to release.
The alumnae group, Saving Sweet Briar, had been working diligently to raise private support and generate enough awareness to gain the support of Virginia’s AG. After mere months, those efforts paid off with only Hon. James W. Updike, Jr. standing between continued education and school closure. For educators and enrolled students, the news is a tremendous turnaround given an agreement was reached a mere month before Sweet Briar College was slated to close.
One component of the agreement requires an overhaul of Sweet Briar’s board. Thirteen current board members would be forced into resignation, and 18 new members would be elected. Current president James R. Jones would also leave the school in lieu of former Bridgewater College leader Phillip Stone being put into Sweet Briar College’s presidential role. Faculty members who would’ve lost their jobs are slated to receive continued employment or an unspecified severance package.
New classes will begin in August, meaning the agreement must be approved and board must be organized quickly. Any new funding, faculty shakeups, and mandates must be organized in time, which skeptics close to Sweet Briar College believe may be impossible to pull off. The new leadership board will be allowed to operate freely during the upcoming school year in hopes they’ll devise a long-term solution for financial stability and leadership culpability.
Sarah Clement, head of Saving Sweet Briar, calls the agreement a saving grace for the college and is appreciative of how many pledges quickly converted to donations. In an American education system already hindered by high social stress and financial uncertainty, news that this century-old liberal arts school is positive proof anything can happen with the right leadership.
Thanks to a proactive Attorney General like Mr. Herring, order is restored at Sweet Briar College.
[Photo by Charles Ommanney / Getty Images News]