After the University announced it would invite all undergraduates back to campus for the spring semester, students had 10 days to determine whether they intend to live on campus.
Approximately 3,400 undergraduate students indicated they would, according to figures provided by Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss. Out of the total 4,700 enrolled undergraduates, 4,600 completed the Housing declaration form. Around 1,200 students have opted to continue learning remotely at an off-campus residence, whether in the Princeton area or beyond.
Students requesting leaves of absence had until the same deadline to notify the University of their decision. Hotchkiss noted that only 12 students had requested a leave of absence at this time. The roughly 700 students who requested leaves of absence in the fall will be unable to resume their studies and live on campus until next fall, as usual.
“Based on those figures, we expect to be able to house all undergraduates and graduates in student dormitories,” Hotchkiss said. Students will be able to access their housing contracts by Dec. 18.
Additional information pertaining to spring semester on-campus living can be found on the University’s Spring 2021 website.
The University has signaled its preparedness to combat the coronavirus by establishing stringent social distancing guidelines for students planning to live on campus and opening a COVID-19 testing laboratory.
Many students planning to live on campus this spring are cautiously optimistic about the chance to reside on campus in a year beset by difficulties.
Upon learning of the University’s decision to invite all undergraduates to live on campus, Quinn Russell ’24 told The Daily Princetonian she felt a wave of relief.
“This semester has made it incredibly difficult to learn and feel like a member of the Princeton community, and I had been planning to take a leave of absence and get a job if we weren’t able to come back to campus,” Russell said.
Similarly, Gabriel Robare ’24 told the ‘Prince’ that he was “exhilarated” about the chance to experience the University and its intellectual community, despite the confined nature of campus living outlined in the University’s 2021 Social Contract.
Robare is a contributing features writer at the ‘Prince.’
“Even if most of our time will be spent in dorm rooms, I still am constantly excited with the prospect of living in a different place and being around people,” Robare wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “As a first-year, I have spent a total of two hours on Princeton’s campus, so for me, I am very, very excited.”
In a year defined by surges in worldwide COVID-19 cases and the prolonged periods of isolation that local and national authorities have ordered, the University’s decision to invite students back to campus offers many students a reprieve.
Russell detailed the numerous predicaments that she faced during this remote semester, including contracting COVID-19 — despite adhering to all social distancing recommendations — after giving a ride to someone who she said misrepresented their adherence to social distancing protocol, and suffering a hurricane-inflicted power outage that impeded her ability to attend her classes and complete coursework for days.
“I’m really looking forward to not being put in that position again,” Russell said.
Meanwhile, other students have decided to continue living off-campus for the spring semester, whether by choice or necessity.
Antea Garo ’24, an international student living in Albania, cannot live on campus for the spring semester due to travel restrictions imposed by the American embassy in her home country. Despite this disappointment, Garo said that she has become accustomed to remote learning.
“After doing a whole semester online, I got quite used to remote learning and Zoom, so I don’t think it will be much of a problem to continue another semester online,” she explained. “While I am still a little disappointed that I won’t be able to make it to campus, I am very grateful to have a supportive family (and of course, very supportive friends) who will be with me every step of the way during the spring semester.”
Deena Mainali ’22 told the ‘Prince’ that she declared her intent to return to campus, but is unsure whether she will actually do so, citing concerns about safety and access to health resources as an immunocompromised student but also the potential benefits of living on-campus again.
“I put down “yes” on the Housing form just because it’s not a commitment, and I think it’s better for the University to give us an overestimation of the number of students that will be there rather than an underestimation,“ Mainali said. “It’s always better to overestimate risk to one’s immune system in a pandemic situation than to underestimate it.”
Valerie Wales ’24, a student in the second semester of her gap year who will be starting the virtual learning experience this spring, believes that remote learning will be most conducive to her academic success.
“I took a gap year because I needed a break, for a variety of reasons. But I feel wholeheartedly ready to go back, even if only virtually,” Wales said. “Of course, I expect to miss out on some things that are happening on campus, but I think the positives of my remote learning situation (being close to family, having a great roommate) outweigh the negatives.”
All students interviewed expressed some reservations, but stated beliefs that the University is situated to proactively manage the risks associated with an on-campus spring semester.
Robare indicated that he believes the University is well-prepared to tackle any problems that may arise.
“At this time I have few real concerns — there are infection risks on campus, but there are infection risks at home, too,“ he said. “I think the University has the infrastructure and thoughtfulness to react to the circumstances.”
Other students worry that students will not comply with the University’s social contract. Garo noted that she hopes students will be able to socialize to some extent, but worries about the increased possibility of Social Contract violations that could ensue under the circumstances.
“My main concern is whether the students on campus will actually follow the rules that the University has placed to keep everyone safe,” she remarked. “Granted, they may do so in the beginning, but I’m sure eventually some of the rules may be broken. I really hope that won’t be the case considering that it’s our responsibility to keep each other safe during these times.”
Despite the challenges, students are overwhelmingly eager and excited to get to return or live on campus for the first time.
“I will miss my family and likely go a little stir crazy in my room, which will probably be less engaging than my family home,” Robare wrote. “But … I trust the University to serve us well and to do its best to protect the students from the virus.”