Sunday, May 27, 2018

A bittersweet farewell to Sweet Briar

ANNELISE GILBERT ’17

OPINIONS EDITOR

 

On Mar. 3, Sweet Briar College in Virginia announced that it would be shutting itself down. The closing of the small women’s college has been a frequent topic of conversation on campus due to the fact that Trinity’s past president, James “Jimmy” Jones, is the current president of Sweet Briar. Many students of Sweet Briar expressed unhappiness and despair with the decision, and countless people sympathized with them. Some Trinity students have taken the misfortune as an opportunity to boast about their happiness, since some assume Trinity would have been closed if Jones stayed. In addition to the feelings of understanding and the joking, though, seems to be the unacknowledged praise Sweet Briar is receiving for the manner in which they closed.

What causes a small liberal arts college with a $94 million endowment to shut down? Sweet Briar has been discounting tuition in order to increase appeal for the school. The trustees even considered the option of admitting men, but determined that the costs to accommodate men outweighed the potential benefits. Instead of running through resources in an attempt to save the college, Sweet Briar looked at the numbers and chose to put students first. While it may not seem that ending education at the college is supportive of the students, the trustees’ reasoning is sound.

It has been reported that Sweet Briar College will use remaining funds to foster an orderly transition for those affected. Employees will be paid severance and students will receive help in their searches for new academic institutions. Sweet Briar has also worked with other colleges in the area, such as Virginia Tech, to accommodate students’ transitions by accepting late applications.

This situation would not be ideal for any student, but the time and effort the trustees and administration took to evaluate their choices needs to be respected. A group of alumnae has opted to retain a lawyer and raise funds in an effort to reverse the decision. The same group has advised current students not to commit to other schools. The alumnae and students need to understand that Sweet Briar is closing, and make alternate plans.

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