A Message from President Judd

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Dear Members of the Sarah Lawrence Community,

Since I arrived at Sarah Lawrence in 2017, I have held the safety and well-being of our students as my highest charge and responsibility.

The indictment of Lawrence Ray, parent of a former student, raises serious and troubling questions of how student members of our community first apparently came under his influence in 2010 and what interventions might have been possible. From the indictment, it appears that for some part of the fall semester in 2010, this parent stayed in his daughter’s on-campus apartment, in a clear violation of the College’s written policy on campus visits. The question, How could the College not know this?, has been asked by many, including myself. We are a small college, and while it is not unreasonable to expect that we will know when something is happening on our campus, in fact College officials at the time didn’t know. Perhaps because the apartment in question was a small townhouse with its own entrance, students in other housing would not necessarily have been aware of the presence (and have told us they were not) of this student’s father.  What we do know is that no reports about this parent’s presence on campus during that semester, formal or informal, were lodged by students sharing that small living space, by their student neighbors, or by anyone else. The potential reasons cited above are not offered as a justification or as an effort to place blame, but rather as potential answers to the troubling question with which I have been wrestling. Whatever the reason, however, it is clear to me, and to my colleagues here at Sarah Lawrence, that such situations cannot reoccur.

Because much misinformation is circulating, I do want to clarify certain important issues before addressing the current proactive measures that are in place here at the College. The acts charged in the indictment allegedly started in 2011—after Ray had stayed with his daughter; they spanned nearly a decade and are not alleged to have taken place on the Sarah Lawrence campus. That makes the acts as alleged no less horrific, nor our heartache for the victims of those misdeeds any less deep, but it is important to reiterate that the crimes for which this man has been indicted did not occur at Sarah Lawrence, even though he appears to have met certain of his victims while they were students here.

Though colleges cannot and do not act in loco parentis, I want to assure you that we do have current policies, procedures, and community awareness programs in place to take care of each other. Sarah Lawrence is a different place today, as is the world at large, and the mantra encouraging our community to “say something” when they “see something” is a much more deeply rooted concept than it was a decade ago. I am working with others here to ensure this sense of awareness and concern continues into the future, as we reinforce our commitment to a joint sense of community and responsibility to one another. We continue important conversations about campus safety and support for all our students; we regularly review our policies to enhance their efficacy, and regularly provide training and information to insure that our students and community members are aware of the policies, the support systems and the available resources. And we are doing what we can to ensure that our students, as young adults in the midst of one of the most formative and vulnerable times of their lives, are vigilant about the dangers others may pose. Sarah Lawrence students distinguish themselves in particular for their belief in the underlying goodness of others, but as the acts of this parent detailed in the criminal indictment establish, not all persons will have the students’ interests or wellbeing at heart.

I have reflected deeply on these events since they were first brought to my attention. Sarah Lawrence is an extraordinary College that brings together smart, creative, outside-the-box thinkers for an intensive intellectual experience, and we do so by building a strong and inclusive community. And our students and alumni use their education to make change in the world.  While a firm belief in the basic goodness of others will continue to be an important tool used by our students and alumni in effecting positive change, the lessons we have learned include the need to temper that trust and belief with a clear-eyed and critical assessment of the world around us. It is in fostering that balance that I believe we can most effectively serve our students and our alumni.

Finally, I write not only as a president, but as a parent—a parent of three daughters of recent college age. I think often of their college experiences and what I expected of their institutions, and I have and will continue to hold Sarah Lawrence to the very highest standards as we continue to educate students who truly make a difference in our world.

Yours,

Cristle Collins Judd
President


About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.