Thursday, March 12, 2015

If you follow me on Twitter....   You may have noticed that for the last 8 days, I have been flooding my feed solely focused on one issue -- Sweet Briar College (our 3300 acre campus nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, pictured above).

I am a 1996 graduate of Sweet Briar and hold the college & my experience while attending, very close to my heart, as do the majority of all connected to the school. It's for that reason and countless others, that when the Board of Trustees on March 3rd abruptly announced the college's closing effective August 2015, a shock wave ran through our entire Sweet Briar Community -- students, alumnae, and friends of the college. And since the news broke, it has been a call to action to mobilize our efforts to a collective voice with a focused goal of overturning the Board's decision.

Sweet Briar College interim President Jimmy Jones (read more here) points to 2 major factors that led to the Board's unanimous vote.....   Insurmountable Financial Debt & Declining Enrollment.

We find ourselves scratching our heads and asking 'how is this possible'?  Currently the college endowment is $94 million.....   And when referring to enrollment issues, it should be made clear, that the college has chosen not to name a permanent Director of Admissions for 2 years -- 2 YEARS ! On top of the fact, the Board never revealed at any time our beloved college was in such dire straits. Even the the town of Amherst's (where Sweet Briar is located) mayor, Paul Kilgore, "never saw it coming", which now sparks a ripple effect impacting the livelihood of Amherst residents -- affecting 350 jobs alone.

*Sweet Briar House  -- Voted "Virginia’s Favorite Architecture", in a public poll conducted by the Virginia Center for Architecture

Jimmy Jones assumed the office from Jo Ellen Parker, who left in the Spring of 2014, after serving as Sweet Briar College president for 5 years. In her published letter announcing her resignation she states:

"Sweet Briar is poised to take another step toward a future in which it will, yes, “flourish;” the strategic research and planning process that we’ve been discussing this spring will move forward as planned, informing the community and its leaders about the options that will best serve this wonderful college in the coming decade."

So, in less than a year.....   How did we get to a position that Sweet Briar needs to shut down?

The great news is that in the last 8 days, we have secured the legal services of the Richmond, VA based offices of Troutman Sanders, who in turn have hired a PR firm to handle all of our press releases and media inquires. We have nearly $3 million pledged towards our immediate goal of $20 million needed to keep the Sweet Briar gates of our 100+ year old school open. There has been a firestorm unleashed on Social Media platforms to spread our cause globally. And yesterday, State Senator Chap Petersen sent a letter to the Virginia Attorney General requesting insight into the legality of the closure.

From my perspective, the conversation that needs to be had isn't necessarily whether or not Single Sex Education is relevant....   The conversation pertains to a much larger picture about why those we trusted to steer Sweet Briar into the future, have taken their hand off the wheel!

For more information & updated details, please visit Saving Sweet Briar. You can pledge your support here and if you are on social media, follow us #SaveSweetBriar.

*Founder's Day -- one of the many longstanding Sweet Briar College traditions....   Occurring at the beginning of the school year. The entire Sweet Briar community walks up to Monument Hill carrying Daisies -- seniors in their black robes, students dressed in white -- to be placed at Daisy's grave. Daisy is the daughter of our founder Indiana Fletcher Williams, who in her will, left her land to establish in Daisy's memory a school focused on the sole purpose of educating Women. Sweet Briar College opened its gates in 1901.

UPDATE: Please read more here from today's Washington Post and here from The Roanoke Times

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