Alumnae Consider Taking Legal Action Against College

Byline: by Caileigh Oliver

Posted: April 14, 2013

Legal counsel is hired and a fund established to look into potential legal action against Wilson College, an alumna announced online on Feb. 17.

Alumna, Gretchen Van Ness ’80 states the legal counsel is looking to potentially challenge the Board of Trustees’ January vote to change several areas of the college. While many changes were approved, attention is focused on the change to a co-educational college. Yet according to Van Ness, that is not the main reason this group is seeking legal action.

“It is possible that Wilson will only thrive as a co-ed college,” said Van Ness. “But there’s not enough research to support this.”

Alumnae believe that the Commission’s focus on the possibility of going co-ed caused other potential avenues to be overlooked, ones that might have allowed Wilson to remain true to its history as a women’s college.

“We haven’t addressed so many things that continue to hinder Wilson today,” said Van Ness.

The Boston, Mass.-based Preserve Wilson for Women Fund paying for the legal counsel continues to receive many donations from opponents of the vote. Donations currently total over $20,000, and group members believe a newly established PayPal account will cause an increase in donations.

No pre-emptive action against the group of alumnae for the college

“There is currently no legal action against the College and we won’t speculate about the possibility,” stated Brian Speer, Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

Alumnae have taken legal action against the college before – a situation that makes Wilson unique from other colleges and universities. On Feb. 19, 1979, trustees voted to close the college at the end of the academic year. Alumnae, students, and supporters of the college protested and formed the “Save Wilson” committee. The group fundraised over $1 million to show support for the college and to pay for legal counsel.

On March 27, 1979, the committee filed suit against the college to keep it from closing. Judge John W. Keller ruled in favor of the Save Wilson committee, saying that trustees didn’t have the right to deviate so greatly from Wilson’s charter without court approval.

While the process and emotions around the issue are divisive, it is because so many people are passionate about Wilson.

“Nothing about this is easy, but that is true of anything that really matters - and Wilson really matters,” said Van Ness in a recent Facebook post.

Last Updated: April 20, 2013

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