A Message from President Judd as Remote Learning Commences

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Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

I wanted to reach out today to welcome us all “back” in a new and unfamiliar way as we “return” from spring break to remote learning amidst a world disrupted in ways that none of us could have imagined when we began the spring semester two months—and what seems a lifetime—ago. 

I want first of all to share with you an overwhelming sense of gratitude: gratitude for the way in which we together have rapidly adjusted to extraordinary circumstances. In the coming weeks I will try to enumerate properly the thanks to all—students, staff, and faculty—for the way that you have responded in this crisis. All of our lives have been turned upside down and in the midst of that, and in the anxiety and uncertainty that accompany it, I have witnessed countless acts of care and concern, of unstinting generosity, of kindness, and of laughter, creativity, and beauty throughout this community. Over these next weeks we are going to be challenged to continue to build those bonds of community that we will need to sustain us as we are physically separated but I am certain that we will all continue to rise to the challenge. 

Over the weekend, to comply with Governor Cuomo’s most recent executive order, we significantly reduced the staff who will continue physically working on campus to a very small number of essential personnel needed to support remote learning and to ensure the security and maintenance of the campus (including the security of students’ belongings still in rooms). I am deeply grateful to these staff for their tireless work to keep the campus safe and our systems running as well as to the group of staff who live permanently on campus for their ongoing support. The rest of our staff, along with the faculty, quickly made adjustments in recent days and are reading this e-mail from their homes, as they join students in doing their work remotely. We have also been in contact with the State of New York and Lawrence Hospital to ensure that if parts of our campus are needed, for example, to house health workers or for other support, we will gladly make it available as we all work through these extraordinary times.

One of the challenges about the way we left campus is that many of us didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye. I know that is especially hard for our seniors whose time on campus ended so abruptly and not as they had planned. So it is with an especially heavy heart that I share that our undergraduate and graduate commencements, which were scheduled for May 14 and 15, must be postponed. Given the advice we are receiving, it is hard to imagine that we could safely hold such a large gathering this spring. We recognize that people need to make plans, so I wanted to provide that information now. Refunds of graduation fees will shortly be posted to student accounts.

Graduation is one of my favorite events at Sarah Lawrence and I share the deep disappointment the decision to postpone will cause. We will hold virtual ceremonies of some sort, confer degrees, and mail diplomas, but we are committed to providing an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020 and doing so in a way that allows as many as possible to return and be awarded their degrees in the company of their classmates, friends, and faculty. We will communicate those plans as they develop. I wish that I could give you a firm date now, but given the ongoing uncertainty, I think it best to wait until we can make concrete plans. We will reach out to students when this planning begins. And, as I was able to say in person to many seniors, we will hold a much-delayed senior cruise at your reunion. 


Many of you know that one of my favorite things to do is to walk the campus—from Hill House to the Science Center and everything in between; indeed, this missive was mentally composed on a couple of those walks yesterday. As I walked the campus, the beauty we all know and love was in evidence, with the tulip trees blooming, the first azalea buds opening, and black and grey squirrels in abundance (and now, this morning, it is snowing!). While I revel in the beauty of our campus, what I love above all are the people of our campus and the hellos I exchange as I walk its length. And yesterday, I walked an essentially empty campus. For the remainder of the semester, we will be a globally dispersed learning community and while we are apart, as I continue to live in my home at the President’s House, I will use Instagram to the degree circumstances allow to help you connect physically to our campus day-to-day (and I’m happy to take requests for photos of particular places). I hope you’ll consider these posts virtual “hellos” from me to you until we are able to greet each other again in person. I will also set up some virtual lunch hours with students over the course of the next few weeks to replace my drop-ins and conversations at Bates and the BWCC.

Thank you to all of you—students, faculty, and staff—for all that you have done and are doing to make the transition to this period of remote learning in the extraordinary and challenging circumstances of a global pandemic. Please continue to follow SLC.EDU/COVID for updates, and please continue to practice social distancing, not only for your own protection, but for that of others.

As we all adjust to the physical distance imposed by the necessary responses to this pandemic, it is more important than ever that we maintain the close relationships that are at the core of a Sarah Lawrence education with commitment and intentionality. Our work will be different for the remainder of this semester, but distance ultimately is no match for the work that our students and faculty do together daily. There will be challenges as we complete the semester remotely, but I am confident that we will meet them creatively and flexibly, and most of all, together. 

Sarah Lawrence has faced and overcome many challenges since the College was founded almost a century ago, and the College’s strength is rooted in our community’s passionate, humanistic, and empathetic discovery and engagement with the world. This has been our collective hallmark for nearly a century, and will continue to be in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Thank you,

Cristle Collins Judd
Instagram: @slcprez

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.