Sarah Lawrence Eliminates Course Catalog

Sarah Lawrence College recently decided to stop printing the annual course catalog. Since students pretty much look at the catalog online, why bother continuing to print a great big book every year?

But some students and alumni object. They’ve created a group to try and prevent the liberal arts school from taking so drastic a step. Defenders of the dead tree catalog complain that “it’s difficult to make decisions without the tactile touch of a printed catalog.”

They explain:

The Sarah Lawrence Course Catalog is a tradition on campus. Generations of students have carried dog-eared, highlighted copies of it from interview to interview, making notes in the margins and comparing courses with friends.

Unfortunately, the college is planning to eliminate the catalog and go digital beginning this school year. We cannot let this happen! The catalog is the most tactile and succinct representation of our academic year, it’s an academic yearbook, and at Sarah Lawrence, that’s as important as a social one! Surely there are other ways the college can negotiate being cost effective and environmentally conscious and still maintain this basic service to its students.

Time is short. Catalogues would need to go to the printer soon! “Like” this page and help us save it!”

Somewhat ironically, the campaign to save the catalog is occurring exclusively online. This, naturally, provokes questions about the legitimacy of this endeavor. As Bennett Madison, a former Sarah Lawrence student, says sarcastically:

I would love to respond to [this issue], unfortunately I am unable to do so without the benefit of the tactile touch experience. Please write your comments on a piece of paper—the more fibrous and textured the better!—and mail it to me so I can rub it on my body and finally formulate a response.

Just because it’s archaic doesn’t mean it’s beautiful or romantic.

As an employee of a magazine that actually prints issues every two months I’m no great fan of anything moving online, but come on. The course catalog has all the meaning of a telephone book or a credit card receipt.

UPDATE: Gerald Schorin, Vice President for communications and marketing at Sarah Lawrence, explains that the school will still produce a physical catalog next year. “The College had always planned on also continuing a print version for a period of time,” he says.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer