Editorial: Lessons to be learned from Sweet Briar’s closing
By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS STAFF
The abrupt closing of Sweet Briar College following the completion of the 2015 spring semester, announced just a few short weeks ago, set off a storm of anger, confusion and sadness not only among those in the Sweet Briar community, but also fellow universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since the announcement, many have reached out to offer support to those affected by the closing.
One school is the University of Mary Washington, which recently announced an extension of the transfer deadline to assist those currently enrolled at Sweet Briar College.
Being similar to Sweet Briar in their history and dedication to the liberal arts and sciences, UMW has been a topic of discussion around Virginia. As fear and worst-case scenarios have filled the minds of many, UMW is wrongfully portrayed as the next potential victim of a closing, amid the increase of university costs and a decrease in freshman applicants.
Although a closing is not expected in the near future by any stretch of the imagination, students at UMW cannot help but speculate as to who can be next. Sweet Briar students had no idea it was coming, so it is not unreasonable for students to think, “are we next?”
The reality of the situation is that UMW is not in any danger of an abrupt closure in the near future or beyond. However, points should be taken from this matter that communication from school officials, the Board of Visitors and administration is key in preventing something like this from happening.
Sweet Briar students and alumnae were blindsided by the decision, giving them no chance to extend help or attempt to prevent the closing.
If the potential for a closure had been announced nearly a year in advance, it would have given students and alumni more of a chance to save their school. Currently, $3 million have been raised to keep the university open, still well off from the goal of $20 million.
UMW students have already expressed their issues with lack of transparency with the Board of Visitors this year after many changes in residence halls, dining facilities and construction projects have passed without the consideration of the student population or alumni.
Amid the current metamorphosis of our university, ultimately benefiting UMW in its longevity, it is important for school officials to respect its students’ right to be well-informed of its activities and to be as transparent as possible with us. Sweet Briar has our best wishes, as the coming months will surely be extremely challenging, but we must not let their unfortunate closing go by without learning from it in order to prevent such a tragedy to our community.