Sweet Briar Faculty Members Sue to Block College’s Closure

Fifty-six faculty members at Sweet Briar College have sued to block their institution from closing, The News & Advance, a newspaper in Lynchburg, Va., reported.

The lawsuit, filed in a state court, seeks $42 million in damages for tenured faculty members and an additional $2 million for nontenured faculty. It also asks the court to issue orders preventing the college from shutting down.

The women’s college, on a 3,250-acre campus near Lynchburg, announced suddenly last month that it would close in August, shocking many in the campus community and prompting the college’s supporters to begin an effort to keep the institution open.

The faculty lawsuit is the third legal action to challenge the college’s closure. The other two were filed by the Amherst County attorney and by a group of students, parents, and alumnae. In the county attorney’s lawsuit, a judge issued a 60-day injunction barring the college from using charitable contributions on the closure, but otherwise declined to stop the closure from proceeding.

The faculty complaint claims the “financial exigency” cited in their termination letters as the reason for the end of their employment does not exist.

The college, the complaint claims, is not facing insurmountable financial challenges.

The complaint points to “high scores in public reports issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Forbes, and the Council of Independent Colleges’ Financial Index,” among other evidence.

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