Statement from the Administration in response to the demands from the
occupants of Westlands, March 14, 1969. (SLC Archives)
The first sit-in occupation of Westlands in the history of Sarah Lawrence College began over the issue of a $350 tuition raise passed by the Board of Trustees for the 1969-1970 academic year. On March 5, students occupied Westlands to demand that the Board rescind the tuition increase which they feared would “increase the elitism” of the institution. The occupants demanded diversification through a “sexually, economically, and socially representative student body” and advocated restructuring the College to make it more affordable. Over the course of the sit-in, the occupants devised non-negotiable restructuring demands aimed at increasing student, faculty, and curricular diversity, which included the creation of a new admissions policy, the abolition of the existing admissions committee, the creation of joint student/faculty curricular and appointments committees, and a co-education policy. Essentially, the occupants felt that if the student body was more racially diverse, the College would benefit from grants from large foundations, thus alleviating the need for a tuition raise. However, by the tenth day of the sit-in, the administration still had not agreed to the non-negotiable demands and President Esther Raushenbush asked the occupants to vacate Westlands. After hearing unofficial and unconfirmed threats of suspension if the sit-in continued, the occupants issued a final demand, asking for an unqualified commitment to diversity. This demand was met by a statement from the administration supporting the idea of diversity, but indicated that total implementation would not be immediately possible.