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Lawsuit filed to stop closure of Sweet Briar College

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AMHERST COUNTY, Va. — County Attorney Ellen Bowyer filed suit on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Amherst County against Sweet Briar College on Monday, seeking a court injunction to stop the closure of the 114-year old college.

Bowyer’s lawsuit alleges that the college is the trustee of a trust created in the will of the College’s founder, Indiana Fletcher Williams, and the College’s Charter established by the Virginia General Assembly. According to the lawsuit, by announcing and taking steps to close the college, the College Board and President are breaching their duties as trustees and are violating Virginia law.

“The fight to save Sweet Briar College has taken a major step forward with today’s filing of a lawsuit against the college by Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer,” said Sarah Clement, chair of the Saving Sweet Briar Board of Directors. “We have been working with the County Attorney to ensure that the Commonwealth’s case is presented in compelling manner.

“We are pleased that she has been able to use the evidence and research we have gathered to make a strong legal case for saving Sweet Briar College. This critical legal milestone gives tremendous hope to the thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumnae that have been fighting with all of their heart and soul to save Sweet Briar College.”

According to a press release from the Saving Sweet Briar organization, reaction to the lawsuit was positive among the Sweet Briar College community.

“It is our sincere hope that justice prevails and the ill-advised decision by the College President and Board of Directors can be reversed by the courts,” said Sweet Briar College Professor John Ashbrook.

“Every day that goes by without a resolution is just gut wrenching for me and my fellow students,” said Kristen Frey, a Sweet Briar College junior from Virginia Beach majoring in engineering. “Today’s lawsuit against the college gives us real hope that Sweet Briar can be saved.”