As the Sweet Briar community joins forces to begin the arduous process of reversing the decision hastily announced by the college’s interim President James F. Jones Jr. and the Board of Directors on Tuesday, questions have been raised regarding the intent behind the unwavering decision and resolute determination of the alumnae to alter the outcome.While the SBC community is unabashedly hurting, it has managed to turn heartache into determination in order to give Sweet Briar the voice she has deserved since her founding 114 years ago.The Sweet Briar Community extends far beyond the 3,300-acre campus nestled at the picturesque foothills of the Blue Ridge.One quality we all share is that we recognize the inability to put a price on a Sweet Briar education.Sweet Briar is not just a college where women spend four footloose and fancy-free years running up their car mileage driving to and from Hampden-Sydney on weekends. Sweet Briar is an academically rigorous and immensely well-respected institution whose reputation is anything but that of a finishing school.Sweet Briar is often remembered for its world-class riding program, but that is far from the only top-tier department within the college that draws students from all over the nation.Sweet Briar also boasts a notably impressive engineering department supported by a $3 million endowment from Class of 1945 alum Mrs. Margaret Jones Wyllie. The development of Sweet Briar’s Junior Year in France (Paris) in 1923 pioneered study abroad to Europe, as it is the oldest co-ed intercollegiate program to France. Later, the expansion of study abroad at SBC extended to include programs of excellence at the Universities of St. Andrews, Oxford, Heidelberg and Seville, to name a few.The college also uniquely encourages students to creatively design personalized majors to best represent their passions within the desired exemplary academic departments.Sweet Briar’s array of opportunities brings friends and family, along with complete strangers, together. Our extended community has applauded Vixen efforts, demonstrating their dedication to the cause in less than 48 hours with over $1 million in pledges and counting on the alumnae organized website www.savingsweetbriar.com.Sweet Briar has proven time and time again that the caliber of graduates leaving her rolling green hills each May are prepared to become the world leaders and role models of tomorrow.With only 22% of women in the United States holding senior management positions, I challenge you to delve deeper and discover how many of these women are not only affiliated with Sweet Briar College, but are graduates themselves.As some of the fiercest alumnae in the country, our drive is fueled by our passion and desire to see the college succeed. If she could withstand the Great Depression and two World Wars, we would be doing her an immense disservice by giving up on her so quickly in 2015 when she never so much as momentarily let any of us down.However, from a less idyllic standpoint, we recognize the fatal error made by the decision-makers for the college on Tuesday.To announce to the community that there is no longer a place in the collegiate world for Sweet Briar is an atrocity.The alumnae are by no means fighting a losing battle.Can you truthfully say with confidence that there is no need for an institution with Sweet Briar’s small, roundtable discussion-style classes? No room for century-old traditions and societies? No value in custom-made academic programs, and professors who are accessible at two a.m. because they live next door and encourage you to ask questions at any hour? No benefit in the ability to encourage the growth of distinguished, empowered and eloquent female leaders?Neither could we.
March 6, 2015 at 8:57 AM EST