Thursday, July 16, 2015

Women: Emotional and Nostalgic

An open letter in response to a blog post by Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, Director of the Edvance Foundation and a contributor to HuffPost.

Perhaps apathy is a wave of emotions too afraid to 
burst out of the darkness into the bright light of day 
~Terri Guillemets

Dr. Mitchell,

Over the past four months, "experts" in higher education have come out of the woodwork to lament the closing of Sweet Briar College.  "Oh no!" they cry.  "Single-sex, liberal arts colleges 20 minutes away from Starbucks are doomed!"

In nearly every news article, blog post, op-ed, and radio show, the media accepts the former interim president's talking points without question: too few women want to attend women's colleges; those who enroll require large discounts; and the wealthy families of yore who financed the college for decades are few and far between.

Like you, most of these journalists like to point out that the alumnae are emotional over the loss of the college, and that nostalgia is no match for good business sense.

You state that we must answer the "why" of saving Sweet Briar: "If the answer is a largely emotional one driven by the love and passion that alumnae feel for their institution, it is likely that their solution will be inconclusive at first and ineffective in the end."

With all due respect, sir, would you say the same thing to 10,000 men?

Beginning the evening of March 3rd, thousands of alumnae and friends took to the virtual streets when presented with...well, a lack of data to support the closure.

"It's time to get to work."

What, exactly, do you believe the #SaveSweetBriar movement was doing?  From legal proceedings to social media activism; from admissions and marketing plans to building renovation; from food services to environmental research; from $0 pledged and donated to $27.5 million in under four months; from showing students and staff that alumnae were there for them, even when the college's administration wasn't, to participating in Virginia politics.  Et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.  (RIP Yul Brener)

"Sweet Briar must survive for good reasons."

One of my favorite Washington Post trolls recently suggested that someone perform a study to find out if women's colleges were still relevant.  He made this suggestion after dozens of women shared their stories about the education they received at Sweet Briar.  Dozens of reasons, and he discounted them all.  Thousands of "good reasons" to educate young women, yet you ignore them all?

"The history of Sweet Briar demonstrates that the older strategy of incremental management simply did not work. It's time to strike out and try something new, imaginative, and rooted in the history and tradition of the College."

Since you are writing about Sweet Briar, I expect that you have done your research on the school, the people, and the #SaveSweetBriar events.  If so, you would know that we've been saying the exact same thing all along. 


Let's move on to your strategic steps, shall we?

1. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
coughsayingthesamethingforfourmonthscough  NO more consultants.  They've done enough damage to Sweet Briar already.  Thanks for ignoring the "good minds" of the thousands of individuals involved to date.  If only we weren't so emotional and nostalgic, amIright?

2. Start with an environmental scan. The metrics that demonstrate the problem and indicate its severity are readily available.

3. Respect the traditions, including its liberal arts heritage as a college for women, whatever the final decisions.
Man, I wish one of those wistful women would have thought of that.

4. If there is a future for the College, it will be in part because committed alumnae step forward to make it so. Once the management decisions are made, it will be equally important for the alumnae to step back.
No.  No no no no no no no no no.  The last time alumnae stepped back, the Board tried to kill Sweet Briar.  Alumnae will stay involved, thankyouverymuch.

5. Sweet Briar is a tuition dependent institution
What was that?  Sorry, I couldn't see through the haze of tears.  Woe is me.

6. Transparency in communication is critical
Tell that to Mark Herring.


"A pivotal case study whose outcome will have important implications for American colleges and universities."

You're good for my ego.</blush>  Oh!  You meant the college.

"In 'saving' Sweet Briar"

Whoa!  What's with the quotes?  We DID save Sweet Briar.

"Let's hope for a negotiated, innovative and progressive outcome that does not further undermine some of the bedrock principles and rich traditions upon which American higher education is built."

Right.  Blame the women's college for the fall of higher education.  Move over, Helen of Troy, it's our turn to destroy civilization.


  1. Preach it sister Vixen. While chucklehead "experts" tell us it can't be done, we'll be doing it.

    1. Moo, indeed! If we had listened to the "experts" we would still be living in caves.