Virginia Supreme Court ruling could impact future of Sweet Briar College

Posted at 12:33 PM, Jun 09, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a Bedford County Circuit Court judge made a mistake when he ruled that a school cannot be both a trust and a non-stock corporation. That Virginia Supreme Court ruling could impact the future of Sweet Briar College.

Click to read the entire Virginia Supreme Court ruling.

Click to read the entire Virginia Supreme Court ruling.

Initially, the ruling will allow the Amherst County County's Attorney to file for another temporary injunction in her effort to keep the women's liberal arts college open.

Earlier this year, the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors shocked students and alumni when it announced the school would close for good in August.

The board and school president cited "insurmountable financial challenges" when they made the announcement.

Tuesday's ruling did not indicate which side of the issue the Virginia Supreme Court would take in the dispute over whether or not the college should close, rather the ruling focused on the legality of the Bedford judge's prior ruling.

"Today's Virginia Supreme Court ruling is a major legal victory for the students, faculty, staff and alumnae of Sweet Briar College, for women's colleges and for the sanctity of charitable bequests made in this country," Sarah Clement, Chair of Saving Sweet Briar, said in a written statement. "We are grateful that the Virginia Supreme Court has accepted the arguments of County Attorney Ellen Bowyer that Sweet Briar College can be both a trust and a non-stock corporation."

Clement said she hoped the ruling leads to Bedford County Circuit Court stopping the closure of Sweet Briar.

"With the trust issue now resolved by the Virginia Supreme Court, we will move to seek the appointment of a special fiduciary to assess the college's true finances and determine what is needed to close the current funding gap to ensure the College can remain open," Clement added. "This fiduciary can then take a deeper look, working with all stakeholders, at what changes are warranted and appropriate to help reshape the college to ensure its long-term success as one of the nation's leading institutions of higher learning."

Clement said more than $16 million has been raised to "Save Sweet Briar" since the closure announcement was made.



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