Following Up with “Save Sweet Briar”

It’s been eleven days since my letter to the Attorney General questioning the announced closure of Sweet Briar College.  In that time, there has been unprecedented interest in keeping the historic school open.

(ed. note:  My initial Facebook post on Sweetbriar got over 20,000 hits, which is a record for me, even exceeding the 2013 post seeking Bob McDonnell’s resignation.)

National publications such as the New York Times have written front page articles.  Alumnae have raised $3 million and hired their own lawyer.  Meanwhile, the Sweet Briar administration, which announced the closure without warning, makes bizarre comments such as the school needs a $250 million endowment to survive  — for a 530 student school with an existing campus.   (Decision first, reasons afterwards).

The latest issue is an apparent confrontation with local Amherst County, which apparently either issued or guaranteed debt on the school’s behalf.  According to my information, the County is asking hard questions of the administration and formally demanding that it not shred any records.

Time is ticking.  If only from the enormous interest generated by this story, there is sufficient basis to try and save the school.  In addition, the actions by the Board and President, in my frank opinion, do not comply with the school’s mission or their own duty to fulfill that mission.  Nor has anyone proved the type of extraordinary circumstances that would justify closing.

Immediate action is necessary.  Each day that goes by lessens the school’s chance of survival, especially when the current Board treats the closing as a fait accompli.

Under Virginia law, the Attorney General has a role to play in ensuring that a donor’s intent is respected, even if the gift is made to a private non-profit. This is a unique opportunity to use that authority, i.e. by challenging the shut-down in court on the grounds that it contravenes the original gift of the land

This AG needs to get involved, before it’s too late.

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