SWEET BRIAR, Va. – Virginia's attorney general has announced a mediated settlement to keep open Sweet Briar College, a tiny women's college whose planned closure had stirred passionate opposition.
Attorney General Mark Herring announced the memorandum of understanding to keep the school open late Saturday. He said the resolution came after hundreds of hours of negotiations involving the college, the local county attorney fighting its closure and a nonprofit intent on saving the school.
Herring said the agreement would be presented to a judge on Monday for his approval and final settlement.
Key elements of the agreement include the commitment of $12 million in donations from Saving Sweet Briar and a change of leadership at the school.
School leaders announced in May that the 114-year-old school would close in August because of insurmountable financial challenges.
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If Sweet Briar College lives on this fall, a contingent of faculty members is staying on to educate students who return to campus.
June 30 is the end of many teaching contracts, and faculty is deciding now whether to hang in or look elsewhere.
A court hearing is scheduled in Bedford on Monday on a local commonwealth attorney's bid to block the scheduled August closing of the 114-year-old women's college.
In early May, leaders of the liberal arts college cited insurmountable financial challenges as the reason for the college's closure. That claim has been challenged by alumnae, students and faculty. They question whether the college's finances are as dire as they have been portrayed.
Among the faculty planning to stay is anthropology professor Debbie Durham, according to the News & Advance of Lynchburg (http://bit.ly/1d7Le4B).
"I'm soon to be 57 years old," Durham said. With a house to sell and other obligations, she added, "I just can't go bouncing around the country."
For those who stay, the 2015-16 student body could be much smaller than the 537 who were on campus this past spring. Some estimate a number of 200.
Durham said she'd love to be part of creating a curriculum that was novel is some ways, one that could work with fewer students.
"I think we have the energy, the conversations in place to get something together and out there that can recruit new students for the 2016 school year," she said.
Durham and fellow professor Eric Casey said they believe many Sweet Briar professors have accepted one-year positions. Fewer have found long-term commitments.
For his part, Casey plans to move to the New York to accept a position teaching Greek and Latin at a private secondary school.
"My wife and I didn't feel like I could wait around," he said.