State senator backs efforts to save Sweet Briar College

AMHERST COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The effort to keep a Virginia college is growing. A state senator is now asking whether the decision to close Sweet Briar College was legal.

“We had no idea that there was any kind of financial situation, we had no idea that we were basically at the end of the road,’ said 2004 Sweet Briar College graduate Amanda Walton.

Walton, like many other alumnae, say they were completely caught off guard when the school announced it would be closing. Since the announcement alumnae have started a website, a social media movement, and have raised millions of dollars in an effort to get the school to remain open.

“Sweet Briar holds not only traditions but a educational value to so many that really can’t be explained,” said Walton.

And now state senator Chap Petersen, whose grandmother is a Sweet Briar grad, has sent a letter to the attorney general asking him about the legality of the college closing, including what will happen to the campus, will donors get a refund, and what will happen to current students.

“To now see that we now see we have some people who are in charge and who understand the importance of women’s education getting involved, we know that the right decision is going to be made and the alumnae are going to be able to maintain Sweet Briar and its traditions for many more years to come,” said Walton.

Meanwhile some of the college’s professors have joined forces with alumnae and their efforts to keep the college open, saying they were intimidated by administrators to stay away from any efforts to block the closure or they could lose severance packages.

“It’s like a sisterhood, a brotherhood, of any other fraternity or sorority. We are a small girls school who stands together and will continue to do so,” said Walton.

Professors at Sweet Briar College are lashing out against the administration’s decision to close the school.

The group released a letter on Wednesday, joining thousands of alumni in their efforts to save the college. The professors accuse administrators of intimidating faculty by warning that severance packages could be eliminated if they tried fighting the closure.

“If someone is bleeding – you do not stand there and watch them die – you call an ambulance. At Sweet Briar, we have a wonderful leadership program called ‘Step Up,’ but it seems to me the Board of Directors sat down when it came to saving our school.”

The group has also hired a law firm to fight the closure.

According to Saving Sweet Briar’s site, $2.75 million has been raised so far. The goal is $20 million.

Stay with 8News for any updates in this developing story.

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