with Horse and Hound

Horsey Sweet Briar College Sued Over Closure

For 114 years Sweet Briar College has represented a storybook version of the college experience for women, especially women who love horses. In 2015, Sweet Briar was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the 116th “Best Liberal Arts College” in the nation.  

Lying in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Lynchburg, Virginia, and housed in Colonial Revival-style red brick white-columned buildings on a lush, green campus, the institution was famed for its equestrian programs, including foxhunting, showing, and equitation. Its competitive teams have amassed an unsurpassed record of national championships in every discipline.

But students, faculty, and alumnae were shocked just last month by the surprise announcement by the president and the Board of Directors that the college would be closed forever this summer for financial reasons.

On Monday, March 30, 2015, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia to prevent the closure. The suit charges that closure would violate the terms of the will under which the school was founded, and also charges misuse of charitable funds. According to the Washington Post, county attorney Ellen Bowyer claims that college officials appear to be preparing to sell assets, destroy documents and “obliterate contractual relationships governing tenancies and endowments.”

An alumnae group, Saving Sweet Briar, has been formed and has already raised three million dollars to fight the closure, all the while representatives from an array of other colleges have set up booths in the school gym to persuade students to their institutions.

A New York Times article quotes Tracy Stuart, a real estate agent in Martha’s Vineyard who graduated in 1993 and helped found the Saving Sweet Briar group. “Something doesn’t smell right,” Stuart reportedly said. “You just don’t close a college like that without warning.”

Click for the complete articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Posted April 1, 2015