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First-years, juniors, and others meeting ‘stringent criteria’ can return in the fall, U. says

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Design Credit: Harsimran Makkad / The Daily Princetonian

The University will welcome first-years and juniors to campus for the fall semester and sophomores and seniors for the spring semester, the University announced on Monday.

The announcement notes that a very small number of other undergraduate students will be permitted — specifically “seniors whose departments determine that they meet specific, stringent criteria necessitating them to be on campus to conduct thesis research and whose plans have been approved by the relevant principal investigator and the Dean for Research.”


In an exclusive interview with The Daily Princetonian, Dean of the College Jill Dolan further clarified that a select group of students doing wet-lab work, using architecture studios, or other otherwise requiring an on-campus program will be allowed to return. Dolan told the ‘Prince’ that the University is “still sussing out” which other students would qualify for return for the fall, but she expects “about 100” in total.

Furthermore, the University plans to grant exceptions to some students “leading co-curricular programs that require them to be on campus.” University Deputy Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss  confirmed that Residential College Advisors (RCAs) and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students “will be able to live on campus the whole year.” 

Hotchkiss added Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) are “not right now on the priority list for being in residence all year, as limited space forces us to make difficult choices.” 

An email obtained by the ‘Prince,‘ a residential college Director of Student Life indicated that Assistant Residential College Advisors (ARCAs) “will only be able to return to campus when their class cohort is here.”

The University will also provide residential accommodations to select students who face housing insecurity, according to the announcement.

Campus life will follow strict social distance guidelines, including required face coverings, a “student social contract,” regular testing, and a prohibition on partying. In accordance with state guidelines, students will not be required to return to campus.


Campus Dining will also offer a one on-campus meal plan for students living in dormitories, according to the Campus Dining website

All undergraduates on campus will be required to be on this meal plan — which will offer one swipe per meal — with the exception of students living in Spelman. Only students on a meal plan and residential college staff will have access to dining halls, guest meals will not be allowed, and late meal will be suspended.

“The University is currently evaluating the costs for housing and dining,” and will provide an update later in the month according to Campus Dining.

The announcement said the Council of Ivy League Presidents “intends to announce a final decision regarding the status of intercollegiate athletic activity” on Wednesday.

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According to the announcement, faculty and staff who are deemed able to work remotely must continue to do so until further notice. “More information about how faculty and staff work may be affected by undergraduates returning to campus in the fall will be provided by Human Resources and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.”

Unlike in the case of undergraduates, the University will welcome all graduate students to campus — with coursework and advising that “may occur in person or virtually, depending on the decisions of individual graduate programs.” Some graduate students have already begun phased resumption of research enterprises, and the Graduate School is making accommodations for international students to support remote starts “where possible.”

Dolan explained that the University sought “to get each of the four classes some time on campus.”

“Two classes each semester was our way of addressing that,” she said. “First-years in the fall because they’ve never been to campus before, and a lot of faculty suggested that it’s one thing to switch to remote learning when you’ve had six weeks with students in a classroom. It’s another for students who’ve never even been to campus to have to make that switch.”

“Having seniors in the spring because they’re graduating sounded right,” she continued. “Sophomores in the spring because they’re declaring concentrations… And juniors in the fall because they’re starting their concentrations.”

The University’s announcement comes hours after Harvard University announced that it will welcome first-year students to campus, as well as sophomores, juniors, and seniors who meet specific criteria. Several other Ivy League institutions have also announced their plans.

“Aside from freshmen, the College will fill the remaining spots with students who meet various criteria: those who lack a sufficiently updated computer, fast internet, a quiet place to work, and unhindered time to commit to coursework; those who have challenging home and family circumstances or shelter and food insecurities; and those who require accessible learning resources or assistive technology on campus not available remotely,” The Harvard Crimson reported.

Schedule changes and ‘studying away’

The fall schedule will be slightly altered, beginning two days earlier than anticipated, on August 31. Fall break will also “be reduced from a full week to a long weekend” and students on campus in the fall “will leave campus before Thanksgiving,” with reading period and exams being conducted fully remotely.

Similarly, spring break will be reduced to “a long weekend.”

All community members coming from states with significant COVID-19 spread will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The University announcement explained that some students who will be unable to return due to travel restrictions may not be able to take certain courses. Dolan told the ‘Prince’ that the University is not yet aware of which courses will be conducted residentially versus remotely.  This will depend in part on “enrollment and the willingness of faculty to teach on campus,” she said.

The fact that some classes are not able to be conducted remotely is “one of the areas of this project that remains the most fluid right now,” according to Dolan.

Faculty will create a revised course offerings list, which will be available later in July. The announcement notes that the University hopes to know which courses will be offered in-person “by late August” and will schedule another add/drop period in the fall.

“The University is also considering requests from undergraduate students to ‘study away’ at a university in a student’s country of residence,” according to the announcement. Students interested in doing so should contact the Study Abroad Office as soon as possible, the announcement notes.

Additionally, “acknowledging time zone and other limitations unique to those living overseas, faculty members and administrators will make every effort to ensure that students studying from abroad will be able to participate in the virtual curricular and co-curricular aspects of the Princeton experience.”

The University asked community members to expect that “significant travel restrictions will remain in place throughout the academic year” and maintained the “suspension of all international travel and the restriction of domestic travel to essential purposes,” according to the statement.

In terms of grading, students will be able to elect to pass/D/fail, and faculty may still choose to make their courses PDF. However, some departmental classes will require grades and senior theses will be graded, Dean Dolan told the ‘Prince.’

The University will also be slightly reducing tuition, approving a 10 percent discount for students “whether they are on campus or learning remotely.” Dolan said that, given the time faculty members have had to prepare under the assumption that they would teach online, remote teaching will be more “thoughtful” this time around.

The announcement notes that the “activities and athletics fees” will not be charged for the 2020–21 school year.

‘Parties will be prohibited’: Social distancing, safety protocols, sleeping spaces

The University will test students for COVID-19 when they arrive and “regularly thereafter,” according to the announcement. Isolation will be mandatory for students who test positive, and quarantine will be mandatory for students who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the statement explained.

In terms of opening of public spaces on campus, Dolan stressed that the University was largely beholden to state guidelines. In terms of dining halls, for instance, current New Jersey guidelines prohibit indoor dining, but those regulations are subject to change, she explained.

Undergraduates on campus will be assigned “private sleeping spaces” on campus — single rooms or within suites, according to the announcement. First-year students will be housed in their residential colleges, and “movement around colleges and dormitories will be restricted.”

The opening of lounges and kitchen spaces in residential spaces will be subject to New Jersey guidance, and the announcement states that “it is possible that the University will be required (or need) to close common spaces.”

Frist Campus Center will be open, and the library is considering reserving time slots for students, according to Dolan.

Students will be required to sign a social contract in order to return to campus that articulates their commitment to follow “health and safety protocols and to observing behavioral expectations designed to promote the well-being of everyone in the University community.”

The social contract requires that students promise not to host in-person gatherings. and agree “not to host any off-campus guests, including family members, romantic partners, or any students who are not currently residing on campus in [the student’s] campus residence and hosting no more than two resident student guests at a time.”

Students and employees will also be required to complete an online training related to health and safety policies: “all students, including undergraduates in their first and second years, may be removed from campus housing if their conduct runs counter to the health and safety rules established by the University.”

“All violations of the social contract will be adjudicated through Princeton’s established disciplinary processes,” reads the University statement. “Students who are unwilling or unable to comply with the restrictions in the social contract should not come to campus.”

Dolan told the ‘Prince’ that the social contract will not function the same as the Honor Code, since reporting violations will not be mandatory.

No decision has been made yet regarding eating clubs, and University Spokesperson Ben Chang told the ‘Prince’ that “the University is in conversation with eating clubs regarding their status for the fall.” 

The University announcement states that “parties will be prohibited” and “many social and recreational activities will be unavailable, impermissible or highly regulated.”

In terms of visitors to campus, everyone who enters campus will be required to wear a face covering at all times indoors, while “individuals are not required to wear a face covering outdoors if they are able to maintain physical distancing at least six feet […] from others […] with the exception of members of their household.”

Students required to self-isolate at any time and students arriving from states included in New Jersey’s 14-day quarantine travel advisory — currently a list of 16 states including Florida, California, Texas, and Mississippi — will receive meals delivered to their assigned rooms according to Campus Dining

The Office of Undergraduate Admission is not permitting campus visits for the summer or fall semester, and tours will not be available, according to the announcement.

When asked about the possibility of holding Reunions, as well as in-person graduation ceremonies for both the Classes of 2021 and 2020, in the spring, Dolan said, “The Office of Alumni Affairs is thinking about Reunions next year, but again, all of this really depends on what the world looks like next spring … We’ll have to wait and see.”

In a statement forwarded to the ‘Prince,’ University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 echoed this uncertainty, noting that “COVID-19 is still a very new disease, and much remains unknown about it.”

“Several points have, however, become clear,” Eisgruber added. “Based on the information now available to us, we believe Princeton will be able to offer all of our undergraduate students at least one semester of on-campus education this academic year, but we will need to do much of our teaching online and remotely.”

More information can be found on the University’s recently-launched “Fall Term 2020” website.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Editor-in-Chief Jon Ort contributed reporting for this article.