Sweet Briar has been saved. On Monday, a court ruled that the 114-year-old all-women’s college will remain open for the next year, concluding a months long fight between Sweet Briar’s Board and alumnae deeply committed to preserving the school.
But that still left unanswered questions for Sweet Briar’s administration about the capacity in which the school will function next year.
Phil Stone, the soon-to-be appointed president of Sweet Briar, put those questions to rest in an interview with Business Insider on Thursday.
“We are going to be open for business, and it’s full time open,” Stone, a lawyer at Stone Law Group, said.
“I really don’t have any interest in coming in to run a college that will stay open for one year and then go out with dignity,” Stone said. “This college is going to stay open.”
Stone, who also served as president of Bridgewater College from 1994-2010, provided a deeply optimistic message on the year ahead for the all-female liberal arts college. He indicated that while the plan is developing by the minute, Sweet Briar will welcome back all former as well as prospective students, and will provide them with the education for which the college is famous.
One of the most pressing questions for the school is how it will fill teaching positions left vacant from professors have already found new employment at other schools. Stone explained he was undaunted about the work ahead to be done to ensure all departments will be up and running.
“If we don’t have a faculty member there because of the departures, we will get somebody. We will have a full program,” he said.
Students, as of now, don’t seem to have received that message clearly from the administration.
“I can’t say I’m going to go back until I know they are going to have my program,” Marina Biel, who attended her freshman year at Sweet Briar, told The New York Times.
But Stone has pledged to make sure that students are aware of all of their options in the coming weeks. He also acknowledged that there will indeed be some “bumps and bruises” over the course of the year as staff and students work through any issues that arise.
One likely issue are enrollment numbers, which Stone said will certainly be down for the 2015-16 school year. The freshman class wasn’t recruited to completion before the news in March about the closing broke.
And a more immediate impediment for Stone is that he is not yet the sitting president of Sweet Briar. He must wait until next Thursday, when the new Board will vote to appoint him. Until then, he cannot act in any official capacity.
That has made getting communication to students all but impossible. Students have not yet received official word from Sweet Briar administration that they will be able to come back to campus and resume their programs of study next year. Stone promised that that communication will occur as soon as he is appointed.
But none of that is hindering the soon-to-be president from announcing that school will continue to stay open and thrive, even past the upcoming year.
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