Sweet Briar CollegeThe President of Sweet Briar College says he will not participate in tomorrow’s commencement ceremony. In a statement released today, James Jones says some faculty and alumnae have threatened to disrupt the ceremony if he presides. The college has announced plans to close this summer, citing declining enrollment and unsustainable debt. Many college supporters are fighting that in court.

(Continue reading for President Jones’ full statement.)

“Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community:

After much deliberation and consultation with members of the campus community, I write with great sadness to tell you that I have reluctantly decided not to participate in Saturday’s commencement ceremony. In the last twenty-four 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, despite the fact that my doing so would honor the College’s tradition to preside as have all other Sweet Briar presidents.

“I was deeply moved by the senior class officers’ call on May 1 for a peaceful, traditional, and joyful ceremony, and while this year is like no other in Sweet Briar’s history, I had sincerely hoped their wish would be honored. I am also confident that the vast majority of our alumnae and our faculty share my belief that commencement is solely about celebrating our graduating students and their families. Yet, I have made this decision because I do not want anything to distract from what should be a celebration of our students’ academic success. Dean Amy Jessen-Marshall has graciously agreed to preside over commencement in my absence.

“To those students who had wanted me to present them their diplomas, please know how deeply sorry and disappointed I am. I will, however, still participate in baccalaureate this afternoon, and I look forward to visiting with you and your families at the reception immediately following the service on the lawns of Sweet Briar House.

“To the Class of 2015, I send you my heartfelt congratulations on this milestone in your life. Wherever life’s path leads you, I wish you a happy and successful future. I know that you will make us all proud and that you will always be honorable Sweet Briar women in thought, word, and deed in your adult lives. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you in the years to come.”