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Court hears R-MWC arguments

An attorney told the Supreme Court of Virginia today that the court has never addressed the relationship between a college and its students.

Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., representing alumnae and students of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, contended that the relationship is essentially contractual. The contract is determined by the material sent to its students by a college and what the student should understand from the material.

Before the R-MWC decided in 2006 to admit men and changed its name to Randolph College, students reasonably believed they had a contract for four years of liberal arts education at an all-woman school, he said.

Edward J. Fuhr, representing the college, countered that the trial court had properly granted a demurrer because such documents as the academic catalog and the admissions letter did not come close to establishing an enforceable contract.

In a related case, many of the same plaintiffs, represented by William H. Hurd, also contended that the college’s board of trustees exceeded its authority by taking assets for one charitable purpose – operation of an all-woman college – and using them for another such purpose – a coed school – without court approval.

Fuhr responded that charitable institutions often change and evolve without court approval. Because charitable trusts don’t have beneficiaries, “public officials must enforce them,” he said. The attorney general has that authority in Virginia and he has refused to intervene in the case, Fuhr said.

The court is expected to issue a decision in the cases, Record Nos. 070843 and 071248, on June 6.

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