More questions than answers on closing of Sweet Briar College

A 'Save Sweet Briar' sign. (Photo: WJLA)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WJLA) -- Last night ABC7 told you about the strong and vocal opposition to the planned closure of Sweet Briar College, the small school near Lynchburg, Virginia. Now graduates are fighting back, claiming they are not getting the truth.

For Christine Bump and Stacey Sickels, Sweet Briar is much more than just a school.

“It was and is still a place that is home to me and I can’t imagine a world without it," says Sickels.

But that is the reality these graduates are now facing following the February vote by the Sweet Briar board to close the 114-year-old women’s liberal arts college in Amherst, Virginia later this summer.

The decision came as a total shock to students, staff, and alumnae like Bump and Sickels, who say school officials gave no indication of trouble prior to the vote. They are now working with other alumnae across the country in an attempt to prove the decision to close was intentional.

“It just seems like something strategically was planned and alumnae weren’t informed and we just kept giving our donations thinking everything was fine at our institution," says Bump.

“We have told the truth. We have given as much information as we can," says Sweet Briar Spokesperson Christy Jackson.

She says the decision to close is strictly financial. Enrollment is down, financial aid is up, and debt and maintenance needs exceed the endowment by more than $30 million.

But students wonder why the offices of admissions and development have been without directors for two years.

An alumnae group called “Saving Sweet Briar” has received more than $12 million in pledged donations to stop the closure. And 3 separate lawsuits have been filed as part of the effort, one of which is being reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Bump and Sickels say while the board’s vote may be done, the real work is just beginning.

“I think there’s a place for sweetbriar and i think it can be saved," Bump said.

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