We're going to find out soon if an imploding college will be forced to stay open

Sweet Briar College CampusCourtesy of Aaron MahlerGates on the Sweet Briar College campus.

We may finally get some clarity on the weeks-long battle to save Sweet Briar College, a 114-year-old all-women’s college in Virginia that is set to close after this semester.

On Tuesday morning, a local judge will begin to hear arguments concerning a lawsuit filed by Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Bowyer’s lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction to force the college to stay open, arguing that Sweet Briar’s board and president didn’t do enough to save the school amid enrollment and endowment challenges.

While it originally seemed that Bowyer had a strong case — both due to her status as county attorney and the various pieces of evidence cited in her suit — the fight to save Sweet Briar may have hit a wall.

Last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed an amicus brief stating that Bowyer and her office do not have the standing to bring a lawsuit in the name of the Commonwealth. Herring appears to have a strong legal foundation to override Bowyer’s claim, and the suit against Sweet Briar will likely be dismissed if a judge sides with the attorney general.

If the current suit gets dismissed, however, that does not mean that the movement to save Sweet Briar is finished.

A group of the college’s faculty and staff announced Monday that they may file their own suit against Sweet Briar. Additionally, an alumna who was suing the school dropped her complaint last week, to allow Bowyer’s case to take center stage, but could theoretically re-file.

The biggest obstacle, though, may be time, as the current semester moves closer and closer to its end.

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