Sweet Briar

March 30, 2015;News & Advance (Lynchburg, VA)

NPQ has been covering the case of Sweet Briar College, whose board of directors recently voted to close the school, only to be met with stakeholder resistance. A good deal of that resistance has been organized by a group named Saving Sweet Briar, which more than a week ago threatened legal action if the board and president did not step down. On Saturday, the online version of the Roanoke Times ran an editorial musing on why legal action against the president and board of Sweet Briar College has been so slow to be filed. But that may have been a bit premature.

The Amherst County attorney is now seeking an injunction on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia to block the closing and force the removal of the president and board of directors. Calling the closing “not only precipitous and unwarranted (but) also unlawful,” county attorney Ellen Bowyer, who apparently has been consulting with Saving Sweet Briar, asks that a special fiduciary be appointed to take control of Sweet Briar to prevent the board from using charitable contributions for other than the intended purpose.

According to Business Insider, Sweet Briar issued the following statement after the Commonwealth’s lawsuit had been filed:

“Our legal counsel has just received the complaint from the Amherst County Attorney and will respond appropriately after a chance for careful review and analysis.”

A precedent for this lawsuit may exist in the still-open Wilson College, whose board voted to close it but was blocked after a judge ruled it hadn’t done enough to try to save the school.

Earlier yesterday, perhaps out of concern for timing, Jessica Campbell, one Sweet Briar alumna also filed a legal complaint for injunctive relief.—Ruth McCambridge