Sweet Briar faculty members reject board's decision to close the college

Professor: 'It's not just a job for us'

Sweet Briar College faculty voted unanimously Monday to reject the closure of the private women's college, reports the Washington Post.

The school's approximately 75 professors, many of whom live somewhere on the 3,000-acre campus, also requested "an immediate meeting with the Board of Directors to discuss alternatives."

"It's not just a job for us," says Eric Casey, a professor and faculty leader, adding, "The idea of stopping right now is something really difficult to contemplate."

Background

Sweet Briar President James Jones, Jr., released a video March 3 announcing that the school will close at the end of this academic year because of "insurmountable financial challenges."

Sweet Briar College just closed. Who's next?

The move was somewhat unusual because the Virginia-based women's college has a significant endowment and good reputation. But Jones explains that trouble loomed on the horizon and school officials found no strategies that would keep the school open for more than a few years.

School officials partnered with other liberal arts colleges in the region to smooth the transfer pathway for current Sweet Briar students.

Faculty movement

The administration did not inform faculty of plans until the last minute, says Casey, who notes the board members voted to close the school without hearing from professors.

"Faculty are disappointed we weren't consulted in the months leading up to this surprising announcement," he says, going on to question whether closing Sweet Briar is truly the only option.

According to a Sweet Briar spokesperson, administrators are to set up a meeting between the board members and faculty executive committee.

Meanwhile, professors continue to teach, write recommendation for students' transfer applications, and search for new jobs.

Continued alumnae support

Since Jones' announcement, alumnae have rallied to support current students and faculty, including launching a crowdfunding campaign, taking to social media, and starting a nonprofit—Saving Sweet Briar—that hired a law firm to challenge the board's decision.

Most recently, about 700 alumnae gathered on Sunday to support students and faculty returning from spring break who "are of course devastated with the news," says Stacy Lukanuski, an alumna and parent of a student (Svrluga, Washington Post, 3/17; CBS WTVR, 3/15).

The takeaway: Sweet Briar College faculty voted unanimously to reject the sudden closure of the private women's liberal arts school and plan to meet with the board of directors to discuss alternatives.


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