Ol’ Robbo’s world was rocked by the thunderbolt announcement this morning that Sweet Briar College is shutting its doors at the end of this academic year. Done. Finito. Seniors will graduate, undergrads will have to transfer elsewhere.
Many people first learned the news from a Facebook post. The immediate, overwhelming reaction was that somebody must have hacked SBC’s account and be playing a cruel hoax, but apparently not. According to the official release, the Board of Directors decided the school, despite holding a $94 million endowment, was rapidly running out of money. Rather than trying to extend its life, they voted this past weekend just to put a bullet in their collective brainpan.
This is especially astonishing given that the school finished a massive renovation of its library literally within the past month. And it was only a couple years ago that the athletic center was revamped and expanded. So far as I know, there has been not a single note, not one, of such dire financial danger in anything made available to parents, students or alums up until this morning. Nada. Zip.
One rumor I heard this evening was that there was some bad mismanagement of the school’s investment portfolio a few years back which has finally come to bite them in the behind. But some commenters at this Forbes article smell a rat. We shall see.
This is doubly sad for us. As many friends of the decanter probably recall, Mrs. Robbo is a Sweet Briar alum. (Indeed, we were married in the chapel there.) So is Robbo’s sistah, as are several Port Swiller family godmothers. And one of my oldest friends is on the faculty. It’s bad enough for them. [UPDATE – I should mention that I also know a number of people, real and pixilated, who have daughters there. My condolences to all of you.]
Worse, the Eldest Gel had been planning to apply early decision this fall and had really set her heart on following in her mother’s footsteps. I haven’t spoken to her since the nooz came out. She’s out with Mrs. Robbo right now, who is no doubt breaking it to her as gently as some P.F. Chang’s can make it. [UPDATE DEUX: She took the news remarkably calmly. Teenagers. Go figure.]
Sigh. Guess we’re looking at Hollins now. At least while it’s still there. [UPDATE TROIS: She’s not interested. Looks like we’ll be doing the Spring Break college road show after all.]
UPDATE QUART: There were conference calls Tuesday evening with the president of the board for alums and parents. I understand they went very badly, as the fellah couldn’t understand why people are so angry and got very defensive. Jerk. Also, there is a rumor swirling around that the actual purpose of all the recent construction was not to make the school more competitive, but to make it a more attractive buy. If so, this is bad. Very bad. Further, I’ve heard at least two people suggest that Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s joint, might pick it up. Falwell once famously referred to Sweet Briar girls as those “Harlots on the Hill”, so irony if this is true.
*Spot the reference