Monday, June 22, 2015

Rural Va. women's college to remain open at least a year; students, faculty debate returning

A 114-year-old rural women's college in Virginia has a reprieve. State Attorney General Mark Herring announced Saturday a proposal that will keep Sweet Briar College—which was scheduled to close in August—open for the 2015-16 school year, largely in part to $12 million from alumni, reports The Associated Press. (Roanoke Times photo by Heather Rousseau: Sweet Briar College students participate in an open house created specifically for them at Hollins University)

The proposal was presented today before a judge, who approved the deal, Karen Kapsidaelis reports for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Bedford Circuit Court James Updike this morning approved a mediated settlement allowing Sweet Briar College to stay open for the next academic year, telling his crowded courtroom he is confident the college will 'not merely endure' but will prevail."

School officials cited financial reasons for closing the school, a claim students, faculty and alumni disputed, saying the school exaggerated its financial woes, reports AP. "Other key elements of the agreement include the easing of restrictions on $16 million from the college’s endowment and the appointment of a new president once the governing board is reformed."

While it might be good news that the college will remain open, students who made plans to transfer and faculty who accepted positions at other schools are now faced with a dilemma of whether or not to return to Sweet Briar, mostly because it is unclear whether the school will be open beyond the 2015-16 school year, Emma Schkloven reports for The News & Advance in Lynchburg. The school has about 530 students and 110 faculty.

Rising senior Molly Van Buren, who planned to transfer to Randolph College in the fall, told Schkloven, “I’m not entirely sure how I feel. I would love to stay, but at the same time I don’t know what’s going to happen with money, the classes I’ll need [or] the professors—if they’re coming back or not. It’s just a lot of different factors that are unknown.”

Some have already made the decision not to come back, Schkloven writes. Camillia Smith Barnes, a graduate of Sweet Briar, who has been a professor at the school since 2009, has been working since June 1 at the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma. She told Schkloven, "The faculty hiring cycle normally starts in the fall of the prior year. Most of us were looking for whatever we could find at the last minute there. I was fortunate enough to find a very promising job.”

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