When the board of Sweet Briar College recently announced plans to close the school after the Spring 2015 semester, students, alumnae and faculty took action, launching a nonprofit with a goal of raising $20 million and hiring a law firm to fight the decision. Now, the women have support from alumni of Sweet Briar’s official “sibling school.”
“Sweet Briar is an integral part of the Hampden-Sydney experience,” said William Ballance, a 2011 Hampden-Sydney grad who’s one of the founders of the Facebook group, HSCforSBC and an online fundraiser called A Rose for a Vixen, which is seeking to raise $100,000 through the purchase of $5 “roses.” On Saturday, March 14, the effort had brought in just under $1,000. All funds raised through the Rose for a Vixen site will be given to the Saving Sweet Briar effort, which had raised $2.8 million at posting time.
“I don’t think you could speak to a single Hampden-Sydney man that wouldn’t tell you that at some point in his college career he was affected by Sweet Briar,” said Ballance.
Hampden-Sydney is located in Farmville, about 40 minutes from the Sweet Briar campus in Amherst County, and Ballance said even before he arrived at the men’s school as a freshman in 2007, he’d already begun getting to know the women of Sweet Briar through Facebook. Having the school so close by helped allay concerns prospective Hampden-Sydney students might have about choosing a single sex school, he said.
“We each would host events for the other,” he said. “There was interaction from the first weekend that we were at school.”
Sweet Briar officials cited declining applications and admission as the basis for the closure, and have said that despite an approximately $85 million endowment, they were unable to cover costs associated with running the 114-year-old school, which occupies a 3,250-acre campus in Amherst County and has current enrollment of 561, according to data provided by the school to insidehighered.com.
By contrast, Hampden-Sydney has seen enrollment numbers jump in recent years, and according to an October 2014 statement on the school’s website, enrollment at the men’s college surpassed 1,100 this year for the fourth time in school history. The school’s endowment, at $150.9M, is “an all-time high, up 31% from five years ago,” according to the site. Officials from Sweet Briar and from Hampden Sydney did not return C-VILLE’s calls by posting time.
Brittany Deane, a 2005 Sweet Briar alum who is now an Austin, Texas-based attorney and a spokeswoman for the Saving Sweet Briar effort, said she’s grateful but not surprised by the Hampden-Sydney alums support.
“Through the years, we have seen one another through it all—personal friendships, academic endeavors, road trips, dell parties, fraternity circle, boathouse celebrations, homecomings, and some very tough times too,” she said. “Siblings are always there for each other—and that’s what the extraordinary men of Hampden-Sydney are to Sweet Briar women—brothers.”