The Virginia college's president "reluctantly" skipped commencement, explaining that as the architect of the dramatic plan announced earlier this year to close the school, he believed he might be a cause for disruption at the event. "In the last 24 hours, it has come to my attention that there are faculty members and alumnae who have threatened, sometimes quite publicly, to repeatedly disrupt the ceremony tomorrow should I preside,” James F. Jones Jr. said in an e-mail sent Friday to Sweet Briar students and faculty.
At the commencement, some faculty member silently protested by wearing ribbons bearing the school's pink and green colors.
The school's commencement speaker, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson of Columbus, Georgia, who graduated from the college in 1987, firmly supported the cause of those attempting to keep the school open. "Women's colleges have never been more relevant, and apparently not everybody is clued into that," she told the crowd, according to published reports. "This college needs to continue."
Litigation is pending to determine whether Sweet Briar will be allowed to close as announced by its leadership, or whether efforts by alumnae, faculty and students to grant the school a reprieve will change anything.
The New York Times reported that the legal cases are moving quickly, with oral arguments set before the Supreme Court of Virginia on June 4.