Last night, two online petitions began circulating among community members. At around 7 p.m., students began spreading a petition requesting that the University alter its midterm examination policy. By 10 p.m., other students began to spread a petition requesting that the University refrain from “forced evictions” — reflecting anxiety caused by certain peer-institutions’ actions.
Together, these petitions have since received over 5,700 signatures.
Petition on midterms
At 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday night, Jacqueline Xu ’22 and Addie Jung ’22 created a change.org petition to modify the University midterm policy due to COVID-19. An hour and a half later, the petition had over 1,300 signatures. By 10:54 a.m. on Wednesday, the petition had 2,910 signatures.
“We were studying in Firestone, and we couldn't focus,” Xu said. “There was so much speculation, and things were progressing every hour. We had to do something.”
The students pointed to the stress imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Since Sunday night, when the University inadvertently leaked plans to move to online schooling after spring break, students, faculty, and staff have been scrambling to make contingency plans. The University officially announced the plan on Monday, at the start of midterms week.
“Academic classes and midterm exams will continue the week of March 9 as planned, following social distancing protocols,” said deputy University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.
The University policy states that “events that involve more than 100 people or use more than one-third of their venue’s capacity must be postponed or canceled.”
Three hundred forty-one students are enrolled in ECO 100: Introduction to Microeconomics. Their midterm exam was scheduled for Wednesday. To facilitate social distancing, the students were to be split into two rooms, McCosh 50 and McCosh 10, a move which met neither regulation.
By Wednesday morning, the ECO 100 midterm had been moved to Friday, online.
Other classes have also changed their midterm format. As of 9:32 p.m. on Tuesday, The Daily Princetonian confirmed that ELE 201, COS 302, CLA 219, SOC 226, POL 220, ORF 245, HIS 361, EGR 277, ISC 233/234, SML 201, HIS 210, WWS 315, WWS 330, MUS 103, MAE 305, LIN 201, PSY 252, SOC 217, and ELE 464 had moved to either an online or take-home format due to COVID-19.
Juan José López Haddad ’22 was still studying for the midterm for HIS 367: English Constitutional History when he signed the petition on Tuesday night. He had already taken his ECO 300: Microeconomic Theory exam the previous day.
“Honestly, I have not been able to focus on my midterms,” Haddad said. “I already had a dubious time doing my midterm on Monday. Most people I talked to have told me they are literally unable to study right now. I don’t think the University should responsibly be keeping midterms as they are scheduled.”
Haddad is an opinion columnist for the ‘Prince.’
Other petition signers expressed concerns about the added stress of COVID-19 on top of the University’s rigorous academic standards.
“I’m signing because the stress of potentially not being able to be on campus my last semester at Princeton while finishing my thesis has affected my normal study routine,” Katya Vera ’20 said. “We cannot be expected to perform our best with this sudden and devastating news.”
Some signers noted that the time spent dealing with COVID-19 issues detracted from the time available to study. Students questioned the decision to proceed as normal with academics while creating contingency plans for loved ones with compromised immune systems.
“How am I supposed to care about a revolutionary war midterm when there are actual life-threatening issues that need to be dealt with?” Oliver Crane ’22 said.
Signatory Ethan Boll ’22 suggested that the University could make classes Pass/D/Fail instead of grading them on an A-F basis.
The petitioners originally sought a postponement of midterms, but later amended the ask to include reevaluating the weights of this semester's midterms. Midterms are expected to proceed as scheduled despite the petition.
Petition on forced departures and accommodations
Another petition circulated later in the night asking the University to refrain from “forced evictions due to COVID-19 concerns.” It also requested that the University provide travel and storage subsidies and compensate students for missed wages.
“Low-income students deserve to have their medical needs taken care of should an emergency arise, and facility and dining staff deserve to feel stable even as the University downsizes operations,” wrote one of the petition’s creators, KiKi Gilbert ’21, in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “We're asking that the University use its $20 billion endowment responsibly and compassionately, and that it take concrete steps to ensure that students and staff feel secure, supported, and provided for either on or off-campus.”
As of 11:28 a.m. on Wednesday morning, this petition had 3,000 signatures — more signatures than the midterm-related petition.
This petition began circulating after some schools — including Harvard University — instructed students to move out of their dorms. Harvard is giving students five days to move out.
This move caused concerns at Harvard for students who either live in “epicenters” of COVID-19 or are unable to afford last-minute plane tickets. With the University’s policies changing throughout the week, this decision from a peer institution has put some University students on edge.
However, “the University is not planning to force all students to vacate” according to an email obtained by the ‘Prince’ from Associate Dean of the College and Director of Programs for Access and Inclusion Kristina F. Gonzalez.
Last updated: March 11 at 11:56 a.m.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the signers of the petition on midterms comprised 15 percent of the student body an hour and a half after the petition was created. The article has been updated to reflect that the ‘Prince’ could not verify the percentage of the student body signed on to the petition. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.