General Questions & Answers

This page was last updated on July 14, 2020, at 5:50 p.m.

Recently added information denoted by NEW

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?

It is too early to know for certain and a decision will be made after the semester begins so the College can assess developments in the pandemic as well as campus operations. Our intention is to continue the fall semester’s operations and protocols into the spring; should circumstances change and allow the community to participate in additional in-person and on-campus activities in a safe manner earlier, we will adjust to accommodate that. Alternatively, we will adjust our plans should the situation related to the virus shift negatively in New York State.

In the event that not all students are able to live on campus in the spring, members of the class of 2021 will be prioritized for on-campus housing at that time so they are able to be together for their final semester at Sarah Lawrence.

What cleaning procedures is SLC implementing?

Enhanced cleaning protocols in public and shared spaces, common areas of residence halls, and faculty and staff offices are being developed and will be implemented over the summer and into the beginning of the fall semester. Cleaning supplies will also be provided to students for their rooms.