The University may employ a “lottery system” to determine when students who elect to take gap years may re-enroll, Dean of the College Jill Dolan told over 750 attendees of a Zoom Q&A last night.
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) hosted a 90-minute Q&A with Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, the second event of this nature, to allow students to ask questions about the University’s recently-released fall reopening plan.
The administrators discussed leave-of-absence policies, housing and dining options in the fall, and how recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidelines may impact international students.
Dolan and Calhoun said that students on campus will be tested immediately upon arrival and weekly thereafter. All upperclass-students will participate in another room draw, including those who previously selected singles. The University expects that “once students are in the Princeton area, they stay in the Princeton area.”
In its Monday announcement, the University indicated that it would allow some students “leading co-curricular programs that require them to be on campus” to return. In yesterday’s Q&A, Calhoun suggested that group would comprise only Residential College Advisers (RCAs), as well as Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets.
“The group that we’ve permitted to come back to campus are RCAs,” she said. “We hope that other student leaders will be able to do their duties remotely. At this time, the only student leader group that’s been invited back is the RCAs.”
Dolan and Calhoun answered a number of academics-related questions, indicating that a new course schedule would be posted around July 20.
Gap year guidelines and immigration policy
On the question of gap years, Dolan said new students looking to defer their admission by a year and returning students hoping to take a leave of absence may do so through normal University processes — though, as she previously indicated, these students cannot be guaranteed immediate return to the University.
On who would be able to return, Dolan said: “We want to be as fair as possible — we would probably have a lottery system in most cases, and it would be in September or early October.”
“I really hope that you decide not to take [a] leave of absence,” she added.
Another student asked if international students taking a leave of absence could be given priority to return, in light of the recently-announced ICE protocol that prevents international students taking only online classes from remaining in the United States. Dolan said that no answer is available at the moment, as the University awaits more information.
Dolan indicated that the University is still unsure how its fall plans fit within the ICE’s definitions of online versus hybrid education.
“The way the Department of Homeland Security is defining hybrid or online is different from how we’re defining it,” she said — noting that the University’s government affairs and legal affairs offices have been working to understand the implications of the ICE guidelines.
Dolan also discussed the possibility of a “study away” program, which would allow undergraduates to “study away” at a university in their country of residence. The University’s Monday announcement indicated that the possibility is under consideration. Students would be able to take courses that fulfill general distribution requirements from a “list of programs that we have a relationship with and are approved by the Office of International Programs,“ Dolan said.
Students asked several additional questions concerning international students — including whether international first-year and junior students could stay on campus in the spring, and whether the University would provide housing accommodations for housing-insecure students with invalidated visas in their home countries. Dolan indicated that a number of these questions are under consideration, as the University determines how the ICE guidelines will impact the student body.
Housing and Dining
Dolan and Calhoun were also asked to elaborate on housing and dining plans. Calhoun said that because “we cannot, in dormitories, have communal dining,” everyone on campus will be on a meal plan, and co-ops will be suspended.
She added that students living in Spelman Hall will still have access to their kitchens and that information about eating clubs will become available in the next few weeks.
Students will also have their own bedrooms, though the rooms themselves will not necessarily be singles. Dolan said that move-in will be scheduled by time and that students will sign up for specific slots. The University, she said, will provide “kits” that include “several masks” and perhaps hand sanitizer.
A “campus safety group” will also examine cleaning protocols to ensure compliance with state and federal health guidelines, especially in dormitories where students do not have access to bathrooms in their rooms.
Another student asked about access to outdoor spaces.
Dolan explained that as of now, there are “no restrictions on being outdoors.” She added that the University is working on providing shaded outdoor spaces for students to work in. Calhoun said the University is also considering whether to open other spaces, such as Frist Campus Center, where traffic can be controlled to “limit [access] to students with their prox cards.”
Libraries and Dillon Gymnasium are also developing protocols to open. More information will be available later in the summer, Calhoun said.
Dolan said students who face housing insecurity will qualify for “streamlined process,” by which they can apply to stay on campus.
“The students that have been on campus this summer should expect that their application to stay on campus in the fall will be well-received,” she added.
A rising senior asked why Princeton chose the course of action they did, as opposed to, for instance, Yale’s model, which will allow 60 percent of undergraduates to return to campus and permits seniors to stay on campus for both fall and spring semesters.
Calhoun said that it “became clear through the state of New Jersey that we were going to need to de-densify” and for that reason “we could not have all students back on campus.” Dean Dolan stated that deciding which class years came back during which semester was decided by an “academic logic.”
In response to a question of whether students living off campus will be able to be part of campus life, Dean Dolan said, “if they’re a part of the two classes that have been invited back to campus, they will have full access to campus except for the residential dorms.”
Another student asked if undergraduates returning from high-risk states listed in New Jersey’s travel restrictions — which currently include California, Texas, and Florida — will be invited back to campus two weeks early. Calhoun said that such a measure would not be necessary, “because everyone has their own room, and they can quarantine in their own room.”
Calhoun later added that “we will have special rooms set aside for isolation” in the event that such measures are required. She added that the University is hopeful that students may not have to quarantine for the full 14 days if test results come back quickly, but that this would depend on guidance from the state.
Calhoun said the University would require everyone to be tested upon arrival, and weekly thereafter. The testing site is still to be confirmed — it could be University Health Services (UHS) or “somewhere else appropriately distanced,” Calhoun said.
She added that “we’re hoping at some point we’ll be able to have people pick up where we deliver the tests and [pick them] back up so that students don’t keep having to go to testing sites.”
Tests will be free of charge, regardless of whether students are on the University Health Plan, she added.
Dolan was asked about the room assignment process for the coming academic year.
“Housing will tell us which rooms are available for first-year students and residential colleges will make those room assignments.”
For upperclass-students, there will be another room draw, but more specific details will be made available later. Those who drew into singles already will have to re-draw regardless, Dolan said.
Coursework and costs
Students also asked a number of questions regarding academics.
Dolan said that “University guidelines and public health policies” will determine whether a class can be taught in-person.
“A, for instance, 15-person seminar would have to be taught in a 50-person classroom, and the student and the faculty would have to wear masks, and movement around the classroom would be limited,” she said — adding that faculty members are considering how to engage students outside the classroom
She said that information about which classes will be in-person will become available soon.
Dolan also brought up the question of whether the “social contract is the equivalent of the Honor Code,” previously discussed in an exclusive interview with The Daily Princetonian. Dolan reiterated that the contract “is not the equivalent of the Honor Code in terms of mandatory reporting.”
Calhoun added that the “University reserves the right to change the contract,” but said such changes will hopefully entail making protocols less severe, as state regulations loosen. Faculty, students, and staff will undergo public-health-related training before starting the semester on campus.
Another student asked whether students’ “expected family contribution will be decreased.” Dolan said that the 10 percent “tuition discount applies across the board,” and that there will be three financial aid packages: “an on-campus package,” an “at-home package,” and an “off-campus package” for students living off-campus but away from their permanent residences.
On campus and remote work opportunities that satisfy social distancing guidelines will also be available for students to cover their tuition costs, though the University will eliminate the $3500 student contribution, which was restructured last year. The administrators said that details surrounding financial aid for the coming academic year will be provided in an FAQ that will be made available by the end of the week.
Dolan was also asked about the grading process for the fall with regards pass/D/fail (P/D/F) grading. She said that the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing “is recommending that students still be allowed to take unprejudicial P/D/Fs for their classes ... so a P/D/F they take in the fall for any of their classes will not count to the four P/D/F limit.”
She added that faculty can also “elect to offer P/D/F-only for their classes.”
She added, however, that “in terms of senior thesis grading, junior paper grading, and departmental requirements, those departments have the option to require grades — unlike last spring’s policy.”
As for seniors who need access to laboratories for their senior thesis research, Dolan said, “we’ve encouraged the departments who have experimental laboratory work or hands-on studio work to make decisions about what's safe for their students.” This determination will be made on “a case-by-case basis.”
Dolan stated that whether “students have already been trained in lab protocols will be an important part of the determination.” Several individuals partaking in the “Phased Resumption” of on-campus research previously told the ‘Prince’ that learning new techniques while observing social distancing protocols is difficult.
Dolan told students in hands-on laboratories to “get in touch with your adviser because advisers will be the ones who are going to sign off on the safety of the labs in their departments.” Advisers will then “be in touch with [Dolan’s office], for final approval.”
Dolan also shared other ways the University is “trying to meet senior thesis needs,” including the library “putting a whole array of digital options in place as well as making time in January for students who need on campus research.”
For students in introductory laboratory courses, Dolan said that next summer may be used to make up for the missed lab time. She added that “most labs will be using virtual kits that will be sent to students’ homes so that some of the lab work can be done virtually.”
In response to the shortened breaks during both semesters, Dolan said that “we’re encouraging faculty to think of other ways of assessing students.” This includes rethinking midterms and final examinations.
There will also be a new add/drop period at the beginning of August for returning students, so that students can decide to take other courses depending on whether they will be in-person. A new course schedule will be published around July 20; the fall semester will begin on August 31, and the spring semester will begin on February 1.
Co-curriculars and Commencement
The final portion of the Q&A concerned co-curricular and extracurricular group operations. The initial University announcement indicated that students with certain co-curricular obligations would be invited back on campus. Deputy University Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss previously clarified to the ‘Prince’ that RCAs and students in the ROTC program would be invited back for both semesters.
Assistant RCAs and Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) are not currently on this “priority list,” according to previous reporting.
On extracurriculars, Calhoun added that the University “is requiring that student organizations don’t plan events without the guidance and approval of the professional staff.”
For graduation, dates have been previously set for the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020, who will be invited back in May for an on-campus commencement. Dolan added that these ceremonies would occur “if the public health situation allows.”
The Q&A session was moderated by USG President Chitra Parikh ’21 and USG Director of Communications Hannah Kapoor ’23. Detailed notes from the session, sent to the entire student body by USG, may be found here.