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All students but those meeting specific criteria must return home for rest of semester, U. says

Nassau in day
Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

On Wednesday evening at 7:46 p.m., the University announced all undergraduate students “who are able” must return home and stay there until the end of the semester. Dean of the College Jill Dolan’s and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun’s letter, sent to all students, enumerated specific criteria students would have to meet in order to remain on campus. Students who do not fall into these criteria and register with the University will lose prox access by March 19.

In a statement provided exclusively to The Daily Princetonian, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 acknowledged that it “has been a challenging week as all of us deal with the rapidly evolving situation.”


“Here at Princeton we have made a number of tough calls throughout the past week,” he wrote. “Throughout that process, our highest priority has been, and will continue to be, to protect the health and safety of this community.”

Classes will move online for the rest of the semester, extending the plan announced Monday to use the Zoom platform. This plan was originally intended to last at least until April 5.

“I’m asking you now to do the most important thing that you can do in order to protect your own health and the health and safety of our community, and that is to go home after completing midterm examinations,” Eisgruber wrote to the ‘Prince.’

University students will be permitted to remain living on campus for the remainder of the semester “only if” they meet one or more of nine criteria. 

Students will not be forced to leave if they “must conduct lab or other Princeton-based research on campus” required for their senior thesis. Additionally, “athlete[s] still in competition and required to be on campus” can stay, though the Ivy League canceled all spring athletic events through the end of the academic year earlier today and left deciding whether or not to compete in postseason competition to “individual institutions.”

Students currently residing in “family housing” will also qualify for remaining on campus.


Financially-insecure and homeless students will be permitted to stay on campus too, as well as anyone certified “independent for the purposes of financial aid.”

Any international student who falls into one of the above-listed categories will be able to stay on campus. International students will also be permitted to stay if they live in an area with “extremely limited internet connectivity,” cannot leave due to immigration, travel, or visa restrictions preventing them from leaving, or live in certain highly-impacted countries — countries currently designated as Warning Level 2 or 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or U.S. Department of State (USDOS) Level 3 or 4 for COVID-19.

Students who fulfill these criteria must register to stay on campus using this form. Unregistered students will lose prox access to campus buildings by March 19.

“For those of you, who for one reason or another, cannot return home and must remain on campus, we will of course continue to support you,” Eisgruber added.

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For students leaving campus, the Dolan’s and Calhoun’s letter recommended trying “to pack in ways that will allow you to leave campus yourself, rather than requiring family members to assist you.”

“Our goal remains to limit the number of people on campus,” the letter notes.

For students on financial aid, the University is offering $150 in credit to their student accounts to “help with the expense of moving out.” The University has offered assistance to those with existing round-trip travel plans or those who face challenges re-booking and other financial difficulties.

The Provost’s Office and the Office of Finance and Treasury will arrange pro-rated reimbursements of room and board charges for the period during which students are not on campus. Credits for room and board will have no impact on financial aid packages.

The letter bore no mention of a refund for tuition in any form. University Deputy Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss did not offer comment on beyond what was written in the letter.

The letter notes the University is further “considering accommodations” for students who hold spring term campus jobs and those who expected to continue receiving wages from their employment.

“Please bear with us as we assess how best to provide these resources,” the letter noted.

For students with further financial hardships that are not compensated by the room and board refund, the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life has offered limited assistance to “high financial need students who are suffering severe hardships.” For emergency funding consideration, students are asked to complete a Google Form.

As announced on Monday, all classes, lectures, seminars, labs, and precepts are moving to virtual instruction beginning Monday, March 23. Although the initial Monday letter from President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 indicated that the decision would be reassessed on April 5, the new letter from Dolan and Calhoun indicated that classes will now remain online through the end of Spring 2020, including final examinations.

“We realize that some of your coursework will be significantly hampered by this teaching format. We’ll help your instructors accommodate this shift in the best possible way,” they wrote. “As we continue remote instruction, we’ll guarantee that you’ll be able to complete your Princeton academic work for the spring semester.”

The Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) is actively considering how to manage the disruption of this semester, and is “studying a variety of strategies.”

The options under consideration to “alleviate the stress for students and faculty” include P/D/F options for the entire semester, re-weighting midterm examinations, and other policy adjustments.

Students who are completing junior independent work this semester will be in contact with their departments and instructions on how to finish.

The letter did not mention any alteration in the policy of students taking midterms. Presumably, students are still expected to attend class this week, and the midterm exam policy remains unchanged.

This morning, however, ODOC urged faculty administering midterm examinations to administer midterms online using Blackboard or Canvas, allowing students to pick up the exam and take it on their own “under the auspices of the Honor Code,” or re-weighting the examinations in the grading rubric, in order to “acknowledge student stress and confusion.”

Academic enrollment services including sophomore A.B. concentration declaration and fall semester course selection will continue online as scheduled. Room Draw will also proceed as planned.

“We understand that some classes — dance classes, rehearsals, performances, labs, experiential courses, and service courses — won’t transfer easily to digital formats,” the letter wrote. “We’ll be working closely with faculty to substitute for these in-person experiences as much as possible.”

For students remaining on campus, meals from Whitman dining hall “will be available from campus serveries to box up and take back to your dorm room” at no charge regardless of whether they are on a meal plan. Eating clubs and co-ops will be closed.

All student organization events for the remainder of the semester will be “canceled, postponed, or held remotely” — and other events will “most likely” be canceled or postponed as well. According to this release, no final decisions have been made regarding Commencement or Reunions.

“Given the uncertain nature of this health crisis, we believe it’s premature to cancel those plans based on the information currently available,” it says.

This letter introduces a “virtual community” for these students “to reduce social isolation and encourage connections while many on-campus opportunities are suspended.” 

The page proposes activities such as remote movie nights for students, doing online workout classes, or organizing your room to stay busy while adhering to these social-distancing protocols. 

Dillon Gymnasium, University Health Services, and campus libraries will remain open, though on revised schedules and with these social-distancing protocols in place. Information on these updated hours of operation has yet to be released. 

The letter refers students experiencing stress related to this “crisis” to seek help through Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), residential college staff, and campus life centers like the Office of Religious Life.

“College staff are currently working on ways to stay connected to their students remotely and will follow up with communications in the respective colleges,” the letter reads. 

CPS is also recognizing social-distancing measures, and virtual counseling sessions are now being offered. This shift from in-person meetings will be effective beginning Monday, March 16. 

Saoirse Bodnar ’22, who said she currently still plans to remain on campus, expressed feelings of “shock” upon reading the letter.

“This is separating me from the people I consider my family,” she said. “I’m shocked and anxious, and I’m kind of afraid to see how the rest of the semester is going to play out.”

In their letter to students, Dolan and Calhoun expressed their empathy to the campus community and thanked the faculty, staff, and students “who have responded thoughtfully to this public health emergency.”

“We truly do understand how devastating this guidance will be for all of you. This is not how we expected Spring 2020 would unfold,” Dolan and Calhoun said.

In his statement, Eisgruber thanked the University community for coming together to support the health and welfare of those around them. 

“We all cherish the projects and relationships that we have here on this campus, but this is a rare time when it’s crucially important for all of us to do what is best for the community,” he wrote.

“This is a special community, and while these are really hard challenges, I know that we will succeed in facing them if we do so as a community,” he concluded.