Sweetbriar College Closes

Read it here.

For one hundred plus years, Sweetbriar has been the classic women’s college, located just a few miles outside Lynchburg.  My Grandmother was a graduate, circa 1934.

Today it announced that it would be closing, thereby making it the third private college to shutter in the past three years in Virginia.  It will find places for its 700 students.

Sweetbriar was a victim of some modern trends:  first, the glut of private colleges competing for scarce students, second, the fact that Virginia’s public schools are not just co-ed, they are predominately female with a diminishing male population.  (Somehow, this fact seems to have slipped by the Title IX enforcers).

With UVA being 57% female, a sister school is basically superfluous.

That doesn’t make it regrettable.  Small liberal arts schools teach more than academics; they teach leadership.  Single-sex education might seem outdated but it has its positives, such as encouraging students to speak up and discouraging typical gender roles.

Like HBCU’s, the women’s colleges of Virginia (Randolph-Macon, Sweetbriar, Hollins, Mary Baldwin) had a lot of history and dedicated alumnae.  But the financial numbers are getting harder and harder to justify.  To attract students, Sweetbriar had to offer financial aid to 99% of its students — you just can’t do that and stay alive.

No word yet on what will happen to the historic grounds.

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Ethics Bill Clearing the Floor

The bill (SB 1424) is an ugly leviathan.  It’s far too long (98 pages) and has more definitions than a Webster’s Dictionary.  I’m glad to say I had no part in drafting it.

Basically all gifts over $100 are banned, except from family or personal friends.  There are a number of carve-outs, including invites to “widely-attended gatherings” and ceremonial dinners as well as honorary plaques, educational trips, etc.  This includes both tangible and intangible gifts, so no more tickets to the Dominion Box at FedEx Field or Verizon Center.

This bill was far too complicated.  All it needed to do was ban gifts to lawmakers by persons seeking state business.  That’s enough — and covers Johnnie Williams.

The law will not took effect until January 1, 2016 so it will not capture political candidates (who may be having a free dinner as we speak).  This bill has a lot of flaws, but so does the money culture in Richmond.

Like most ugly bills, it passed unanimously 36-0.

And we’re done for the session.

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“Surveillance” bill rolls on to the Governor

The 2015 Assembly struck a major blow for liberty this afternoon, as we passed the conference committee report for SB 965, my legislation which states that law enforcement cannot use “surveillance technology” to covertly track citizens, when there is no warrant or pending investigation.

The bill was initially directed as “license plate readers,” which have been in use in northern Virginia for the past few years — and which can still be used in a very limited capacity.  However, the conference report was written broadly to address any future surveillance technologies.  We don’t want to be doing this every year.

The bill went through various iterations, even in the final hours, as I worked closely with Delegates Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge), Ben Cline (R-Lexington) and Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to get the final version.  On the Senate side, the conferees were me, Richard Stuart (R-Stafford) and Tom Garrett (R-Cumberland).

The final version passed the Senate 38-0 and the House 95-2.  You really can’t beat that in terms of a unified message.  Now the Governor can sign a piece of legislation, which will be a model for the other fifty states.

Special thanks to Tom Jackman of the Washington Post, who wrote a series of articles in 2014 which addressed the exploding use of LPR’s and first brought this to my attention.  More special thanks to Claire Guthrie Gastanaga of the Virginia ACLU who tirelessly promoted this issue and our bipartisan solution.

Rich Anderson was a great partner in this endeavor and carried the House bill which should pass tomorrow.  It was a team effort.


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