Originally slated to close at the end of the summer, it appears that Sweet Briar College will stay open at least another year, after an agreement was reached between the school’s leadership, activist alumnae, and Virginia’s attorney general.
Pending approval by a judge on Monday, Sweet Briar will stay open through the 2015-2016 academic year, with an infusion of at least $US12 million raised by an alumnae group called “Saving Sweet Briar.”
The agreement also stipulates that the majority of the current board will step down, as will Sweet Briar president Jimmy Jones.
“Today’s settlement is an answer to the prayers of many and a powerful validation of the value of fighting for what you believe in,” Sarah Clement, Chair of Saving Sweet Briar, said in a statement. “We first thank County Attorney Ellen Bowyer for her leadership in bringing the lawsuit to save Sweet Briar College. Additionally, the $US21 million in pledges generated by the alumnae community was pivotal in demonstrating that the College’s funding gap could be closed. We are forever grateful to the thousands of alumnae who made this possible and call upon them to convert their pledges into donations quickly so we can deliver on the promise we have made.”
Since the Sweet Briar board of trustees and president Jimmy Jones announced in early March that the college will close, there has been a battle over the 114-year-old all-women’s college’s finances and its ability to operate in the future.
Here is the college’s statement:
The Sweet Briar College Board of Directors is pleased the College’s financial situation has dramatically changed to avoid closing on Aug. 25, 2015, as previously announced. The College has been working with the Office of the Attorney General, Saving Sweet Briar, County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, and counsel for faculty members and students for weeks on a resolution.
Saving Sweet Briar reports it has received current year pledges of $US12 million with additional pledges in hand for subsequent years nearly equal to the initial amount. The attorney general has indicated he will release $US16 million from the restricted endowment for the continued operation of Sweet Briar College. As a result of these two important developments, the Board of Directors decided that new leadership should be allowed the opportunity to operate the College for another year with the hope it will be able to find long-term solutions for ongoing sustainability.
Additionally, the Board is pleased that its goals of meeting obligations to creditors, providing assistance to students and offering severance to faculty and staff have been achieved through this agreement. As noted in the Memorandum of Understanding released by the attorney general, faculty and staff of the College will be eligible to receive certain negotiated severance benefits and may be offered employment by the College following the forthcoming change in leadership.
While the current members of the Board will be stepping down as part of this settlement, all of the directors offer their best wishes to the College’s new leadership and the assurance of any support that may be requested.
The Board thanks the attorney general for his leadership in achieving a resolution and the release of funds that allow the College to continue operations.
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