General Questions & Answers

This page was last updated on October 20, 2020, at 6:04 p.m.

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What will Sarah Lawrence’s phased opening look like?

To provide greater clarity and so students, faculty, and staff can know what to expect this fall, below is an overview of the three phases of campus life at Sarah Lawrence for the fall semester. Each phase will last at least 14 days and there may be interim guidance offered during any given period should trends emerge that require immediate correction.

Phase I (move-in through September 21): The beginning of the semester, when students and families from around the world will arrive, presents the greatest risk for COVID-19 on campus. In recognition of this, all instruction—both classes and conferences—during Phase I will be online, dining will be to-go only through the GetApp and “Grab-and-Go” options with outdoor seating available, and some buildings will have reduced hours. Students, both residential and commuter, will socialize with those they live with, creating a pod, so to speak, but no in-person gatherings that blend distinct pods will be scheduled. Off-campus travel is strongly discouraged, but students who live together may socialize together outdoors on campus.

Phase II: After all move-in day COVID-19 test results are processed and contact tracing is complete, we will have a baseline level of infection for our community. If there is no growth in viral spread over a 7-day average from this baseline, the College may progress to Phase II, which includes both remote and in-person instruction, outdoor and limited indoor seating for general dining, and the opening and expanded hours of additional student spaces throughout campus. College-sponsored events/gatherings of up to 25 people and informal gatherings of up to 10 individuals (always with social distancing and face masks) will be possible, with outdoor space utilized in good weather. Off-campus travel will remain strongly discouraged. The College also intends for the Campbell Sports Center to open during Phase II at no more than 33% capacity, per New York State guidelines, with students able to schedule a specific time to work out.

Phase III: This is the College’s final phase of reopening campus life and reflects the dedication of the Sarah Lawrence community to supporting and prioritizing each other’s health and safety. Students may socialize within their residence hall, always wearing a face mask and social distancing. College-sponsored events/gatherings of up to 50 people (with social distancing) will be possible during Phase III, with outdoor space utilized whenever possible, and in-person dining operations and campus building hours will be expanded.

Why isn’t Sarah Lawrence starting the fall semester earlier?

New York State has taken an exceptionally calculated and methodical approach to re-opening its communities. Education is in Phase 4 of the State’s re-opening plan, and each phase has a two week lifespan before the next phase is initiated. The Mid-Hudson region, right now, appears to be on track to reach Phase 4 in mid-July, but we feel strongly that it is safest to allow more time to ensure as many variables as possible are known before students and faculty return to campus.

Why are only first year students, new transfer students, and a small group of other students able to live on-campus this fall?

The health and safety of the Sarah Lawrence community is our highest priority. While we recognize that limiting the number of students who are permitted to be in residence this fall may be disappointing to some, the College is following the best public health guidance for our area. At this time there is no vaccine nor treatment for COVID-19 and, as such, reduced campus density and strict physical distancing must be instituted.

First year and new transfer students are making a transition in their academic careers, and physical presence is an important component of making the pedagogical shift to learning at SLC and building community in this new environment. In addition, the College is committed to supporting students without access to secure housing and other necessary resources in order to be actively engaged in their academic work this fall. As such, a small group of international students and students with demonstrated hardships will be able to live on-campus on a case-by-case basis.

Why are First Year Studies courses the only classes likely to be taught in person?

First year students are the only class cohort who take at least one common course (First Year Studies), which presents the chance for in-person class meetings if first year students and their faculty are on campus. All other SLC courses are open to students from every grade level, which makes the possibility for in-person class convenings impossible.

However, in addition to First Year Studies, many open enrollment classes may be able to offer in-person opportunities (conference meetings and group work, for example) to complement online instruction.

What is de-densification?

In order to comply with the social distancing guidelines from the New York State Guidelines for Institutions of Higher Education, the College must reduce the number of people on campus. This includes all spaces, such as dining halls, classrooms, meeting rooms, residence halls, the library, the sports center, BWCC, administrative offices, campus shuttle vans, and outdoor spaces. De-densification allows for social distancing, an integral part of the College’s disease mitigation strategy.

What is social or physical distancing?

Social distancing is being at least six feet apart from another person and avoiding large groups, crowds, and gatherings. Social distancing AND the use of face masks /coverings, hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces are all part of the College’s disease mitigation plan. 

Will all members of the Sarah Lawrence community need to adhere to health and safety protocol and guidelines? 

Yes. Compliance with all disease mitigation and health and wellness strategies is expected as part of our shared commitment to our community’s health and wellbeing. Students who may find these policies challenging are welcome to complete the semester off campus. 

How will campus reduce density beyond residence halls?

In addition to some students choosing to participate in coursework from home, or commuting to campus from home (or an off campus residence), we will further reduce campus density by staggering staffing, and some faculty may teach from off campus. Some non student-facing staff members who, in the past, would work in an on-campus office Monday through Friday may now work remotely in full or in part, creating more space for those whose roles require them to be on campus.

Campus will also have building/area/event capacities that will be enforced to promote adequate spacing and ensure that gatherings occur in a safe manner.

Will there be in-person events on campus?

Most events will take place in an online format. Some events with limited attendance according to space capacity limits will take place in-person.

What types of policies will be in place for faculty/staff who work on campus this fall?

All faculty who work on campus this fall will be required to adhere to policies and procedures that will help to promote the physical well-being of the entire campus community.  These policies will include (but will not be limited to):

  • Physical distancing and wearing of face coverings while on campus, including while in the classroom
  • Daily self-monitoring and reporting of symptoms to the office of Human Resources
  • Stringent hand hygiene and routine cleaning/disinfecting of work spaces

More detailed guidance on these requirements is forthcoming. 

Communities of Color are being disportionality impacted by COVID-19.  How is the College recognizing and working with this?  

During the current global health crisis, more than 120,000 people have died in the United States. Within this nation, Black, Indigenous, and Latiné people are sickening and dying at disproportionately high rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These numbers highlight decades of structural racism that exist within this country.  The college will continue to do the work to change inequities that exist within the institution in partnership with The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  The College also has also committed to providing resources for students who face hardship as a result of COVID-19.  These resources can be accessed through the Dean of Studies Office by emailing

What is happening in the spring?

In an email to students and families on October 20, 2020, President Judd outlined the College's plans for the spring 2021 semester. Read the email

What cleaning procedures is SLC implementing?

The College has established enhanced cleaning protocols of public and shared spaces, common areas of residences halls, and faculty and staff offices. Commonly-touched surfaces like doors will be wiped down regularly throughout the day, hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout campus, and spaces like the Barbara Walters Campus Center food service area will pause service in the middle of the day for cleaning. In addition, classrooms and other commonly-used rooms will have cleaning supplies in them so individuals can wipe down their work space before and after use. Residents will be provided cleaning supplies for use in their dorm rooms, Residence Life staff will build programming about hygiene into regular campus life activities, and signage will be prominently placed throughout campus reminding individuals to social distance, wear a face mask, and practice robust personal hygiene.