A Message from President Judd

Yesterday, a group of Sarah Lawrence students known as the Diaspora Coalition, marking the anniversary of sit-ins held at the College in 1969 and 1989, began a sit-in in Westlands. The aims of today’s students are not dissimilar to those who made their voices heard 30 and 50 years ago: they seek to ensure a truly inclusive environment of respect and support at Sarah Lawrence, especially for students of color and low-income students.

During the morning, in the afternoon, and again this morning, I met with members of the Diaspora Coalition and with elected members of Student Senate to express how seriously I take these issues and my willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue about them.  Among the concerns the Coalition presented to me, in the form of demands which are available online (and which I shared with the senior leadership team), are issues such as academic resources, multicultural housing and support, a commitment that no student goes hungry, and the provision of adequate resources for low-income and first generation students. Their document brings to the fore many pressing issues that students at Sarah Lawrence face, especially students of color, low-income students, first-generation students, LGBTQ+ students, and others, and I am grateful for the willingness of our students to share their concerns with me and the campus community. As I have expressed previously, it is incumbent upon the College to grapple with these issues to support the inclusion and well-being of all students.  The student sit-in also highlights the need for greater transparency and clarity regarding the work that offices and committees on campus are undertaking, including the committees on student life and diversity, as well as better dissemination of outcomes and responses to recent surveys about meal plans and space use.

I believe collaboration from all parties is the best means to move these efforts forward, and this will require us to develop the most effective process for working with students as well as faculty and staff.  The College is already in the process of formulating the search for Dean Al Green’s replacement as he retires at the end of this semester and filling two other key student life positions that are dedicated to supporting student engagement, inclusion, and equity.  These three staff positions will be important parts of our work as we move forward and a search committee of students, faculty, and staff will be appointed shortly.

While recognizing and acknowledging the urgency of many of the concerns expressed in the document, I must also reference the inappropriateness of demands related to the work and tenure of one of our faculty members, for which my statement to the campus on November 6 stands as my response.

Tonight, I hope that you will join me for a panel as part of the Difference in Dialogue Series entitled “Diversity is Not Just the Differences You Like:  Religion and the Challenge of Pluralism;” it provides a timely opportunity to engage some of the issues highlighted by this sit-in.

The students of the Diaspora Coalition have also arranged a panel for tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13, to which the campus community is invited to share their perspective and gain that of others on the concerns highlighted by this sit-in.

After spring break, I will share an invitation to moderated round table discussions at which we can continue these conversations with students, faculty, and staff. The goal of an equal and welcoming Sarah Lawrence should be one that we all share and something we continually work toward. That work will be most successful if we do it together.

Yours,

Cristle Collins Judd
president@sarahlawrence.edu