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Sen. Petersen’s public letter to attorney general regarding legality of closing Sweet Briar College

chap-petersen-headerVirginia State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has sent the following letter to Attorney General Mark Herring regarding the legality of closing Sweet Briar College.
Senator Petersen represents numerous students and alumnae of the college, and his grandmother was an alumnus of the college.
The letter in full is below:
Dear Attorney General Herring:
I am writing at the request of alumnae of Sweet Briar College to obtain your opinion of state law as it pertains to the recently announced closing of the College.
As I understand, the College has a ninety four million dollar endowment and has been soliciting and collecting donations right up until a few weeks before the announced closing.  I also understand that it owns a 3,200 acre campus with fixed assets, which is specially designated for the maintenance of a women’s college.  Finally, I understand that the founder’s (and original land donor’s) intent is for the purposes of establishing a women’s college, and that it is an accredited institution operating a four-year program with approx. 525 full-time students.
With that factual predicate, I pose the following questions for your response:
1.  What are the rights of the donors who made gifts to the institution in the past year, i.e. after the plans for closing had apparently been decided but not disclosed?  Do they have a right to seek a refund if the school continues with its plan for closing?
2.  What is the obligation of the school to its existing students, particularly those students who are within a year of achieving their degree?
3.  What will happen to the property if it is no longer operating as a women’s college?  Does it not revert to the donating party?
4.  What is the role of the Board of Visitors in this process?  Does the Board have a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of donors and students, as well as the mission of the College?
Thank you again for considering these questions and providing an answer which I can share with those interested parties.

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