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Princeton to invite all undergraduates to campus this spring, with most instruction remaining online

Students will be housed one-to-a-bedroom and masks and social distancing requirements will apply throughout campus.

<h6><strong>Albert Jiang / The Daily Princetonian</strong></h6>
Albert Jiang / The Daily Princetonian

The University will invite all undergraduate students to campus this spring, according to a message from University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83. Most instruction will remain online, and classes with an in-person component will be offered in a “hybrid” format to accommodate students studying remotely. 

All graduate students will again be invited to campus, according to the announcement.

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Undergraduates will have until Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. EST to declare their intention to live on campus and must move in no later than Jan. 17. The deadline to request a leave of absence is also Dec. 3. 

Students will be housed one-to-a-bedroom, “not necessarily single rooms,” and some students “may be housed proximate to campus rather than on it.” Assignments will be determined based on last spring’s room draw, and first-year students will be housed by zee group. No additional room draw will be held, though “some new assignments” may need to be made.

All returning students will be required to participate in a 14-day quarantine upon arrival to campus — even students from New Jersey. The announcement stated that lockdowns of “all or part of campus” may be required in the event of high infection rates.

All undergraduates residing on campus or in the local area will be required to participate in the University’s biweekly testing program. The University recently opened an on-campus COVID testing lab, where testing samples from the University community will be processed. According to University Spokesperson Ben Chang, the on-campus lab will facilitate “faster turnaround” than the external laboratory partner employed in the fall, which returned results in 48–72 hours. 

“In light of this work, we have concluded that, if we test the campus population regularly and if everyone on campus rigorously adheres to public health guidance about masking, social distancing and other practices, we can welcome a far greater number of students back to Princeton,” Eisgruber wrote in the announcement.

Masks and social distancing requirements will apply “throughout campus.” Parties and most social gatherings will be prohibited, and undergraduates will also be prohibited from hosting visitors and will be restricted from traveling. Students will not be allowed to have more than two resident student guests at one time in their sleeping space.

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All students will also be required to sign up for a “uniform meal plan,” according to a subsequent message from Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun.

According to Campus Dining, the University expects “that all undergraduate dining halls, the Center for Jewish Life, and the Graduate College will be open for the spring semester, subject to state mandates and guidance in effect.” Seating will be limited to allow for six feet of social distancing, and meals will be available for takeout.

Dorm kitchens will also be available for student use, though only one person will be permitted to use the area at a time. Laundry rooms will also be open, with students required to adhere to social distancing and face covering requirements.

Financial aid will again provide three budget plans including on-campus, off-campus, and stay-at-home options, according to Dolan and Calhoun’s message. 

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Students living on campus will be charged $5,240 for housing and $2,750 for a meal plan, with a bill expected to be issued “on or around” Jan. 2. “The University will not provide additional funding” for students who would have to break leases to move to campus this spring, according to the Housing website.

Libraries will also be open by reservation, according to released FAQs.

The social contract lists requirements students must complete before arriving on-campus, including receiving a flu shot, completing an online training module, and monitoring health for COVID-related symptoms for two weeks prior to arrival. 

The message stated that restrictions may be “tight” at the start of the spring semester, as infection rates in New Jersey remain high and winter weather makes outdoor gatherings difficult.

“We hope, but cannot guarantee, that there will be opportunities to increase interaction, and to phase in more activities, as the term progresses,” Eisgruber wrote.

Dolan and Calhoun wrote to students that if public health conditions deteriorate, students will be able to shelter in place on campus. Amid rising case counts in the area last March, the University instructed all students aside from those meeting specific criteria to return home for the remainder semester.  

“If conditions worsen, we don’t — as of now — plan to send all students home as we did in spring 2020,” Dolan and Calhoun wrote to students today.

In a video message to the campus community, Eisgruber said that the University is prepared to welcome back all graduate students and all undergraduates who wish to come back and “who are willing to make a commitment to the public health principles and practices that we need to observe in order to operate this campus safely.”

“We’ll give you the option to come to campus, and we will also continue to support remote learning for all of our students who prefer that,” Eisgruber continued. “We will support all of our students, whatever their choices.”

The town of Princeton announced yesterday a record seven day total of 36 new cases. The second-highest seven day stretch of 30 occurred in April. This record comes as the University maintains its low caseload, with no undergraduate students and three graduate students testing positive during the week of Nov. 13.

Instructors were given until yesterday to complete a Google Form as an “early indication of” intention to teach using a hybrid format or implement “in-person or hybrid elements” to otherwise online courses such as precepts, office hours, or projects. 

Course formats will be determined by mid-December, with relevant courses assigned classrooms by the second week of January, according to the Spring 2021 website.

Grading policies will be determined in early December.

“We know that undergraduates and their families will have many questions,” Eisgruber added. 

Dolan and Calhoun will also be hosting a town hall for students in partnership with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) on Dec. 1 and a webinar for parents and families on Dec. 2 to answer community members’ questions.

“Though we now believe that our preparatory planning, policies, and testing capacity will enable us to mitigate the risk of the pandemic appropriately, we recognize that the situation around us may get worse,” Eisgruber wrote. “We will continue to monitor developments related to the pandemic, including public health guidance and state regulations. We will be in touch if they require any changes to our plans.”

Students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ video team immediately following the announcement expressed a range of views and emotions.

In the fall semester, fewer than 300 undergraduates were invited back to campus, after a reversal of previous plans to bring back first-year students and juniors. This included Reserve Army Training Corps (ROTC) students, students conducting lab research, and individuals with housing insecurity.

Most students currently living in emergency housing will be assigned the same room for the spring according to released FAQs. Students needing emergency housing between Dec. 16 and the Jan. 17 move-in deadline can apply for Emergency Residency on TigerHub.

International students in the Class of 2024 or international students returning from a leave of absence must be enrolled in “a credit-bearing course with an in-person component” to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) restrictions. According to University FAQs, “they will have access to at least one such course.”

International students moving back to campus will have a travel allowance equal to “the cost of one round-trip airfare” included in their financial aid budget.

For those unable to obtain a visa in time for the Jan. 17 move-on deadline, there will “possibly” be an exception. The University recommends international students review the Davis International Center’s FAQs and contact their Davis Center advisor and residential college director of student life with questions.

The University has also set up a dedicated “COVID Connector Hotline” for questions related to “health and safety policies, campus housing, student accounts and dining facilities” at 609-258-7000. Questions can also be directed to covidconnector@princeton.edu and will be answered during the University’s business hours. Offices will be closed from mid- to late-afternoon on Wednesday until Monday morning due to Thanksgiving. 

Employees able to work from home are still being asked to do so, though “in some instances, more staff will be needed to work on campus with greater regularity as the campus re-densifies.”

The Office of Admission will not resume in-person information sessions, and while the general public is permitted on outdoor spaces the University is discouraging prospective students and their families from visiting campus at this time. An “extensive online tour” is available in four languages, according to the Spring 2021 website.

Eisgruber closed his message expressing gratitude to students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni for supporting online instruction and allowing for the option of a semester in residence.

“All of us look forward to a time, perhaps as soon as next fall, when vaccines again make it possible to offer a fuller version of Princeton’s residential education,” Eisgruber added.

“In the meantime, we encourage students and their families to consider carefully which option for the coming semester is best for them,” he wrote. “We will support our students however they choose to continue their studies.”

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

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