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Princeton clarifies post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 restrictions, eating clubs respond

<h5>McCosh Health Center houses University Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) as well as the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) office.</h5>
<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
McCosh Health Center houses University Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) as well as the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) office.
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

In an email sent by Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun on Nov. 30, the University provided additional details about COVID-19 guidelines for undergraduate students. These new policies come following a University announcement on Nov. 27 introducing campus-wide policy changes amid a semester-high rate of COVID-19 cases.

The new policies affect social gatherings, eating clubs, and international travel. Calhoun explained that these new clarification of guidelines were in light of the many questions that the administration received from students in response to the Nov. 27 announcement.

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Acknowledging that the “vigilance and mindfulness” of students has helped keep the numbers of cases on campus low, Calhoun wrote that she knew some students would feel frustrated by the new guidelines.

“We understand your disappointment about these changes, especially when you’re looking forward to end-of-semester gatherings and celebrations. The University’s goal is to keep our campus healthy until this surge abates,” she wrote. “At the same time, we want to support opportunities for students to gather safely.”

The University has not changed the existing restrictions on undergraduate international travel for personal reasons, but they “strongly urge anyone considering personal international travel to weigh the risks carefully” in light of the potential closure of international borders due to the omicron variant.

Meanwhile, graduate students will not be allowed to travel internationally on University-sanctioned trips between Nov. 20 and Dec. 30 according to an additional Nov. 27 email to the University community from Director for Global Safety & Security TJ Lunardi.

Undergraduate students planning on leaving campus between Dec. 6 and the end of the semester are not allowed to return to campus until Jan. 7, 2022, though varsity athletes may be granted exceptions. International undergraduate students are permitted to remain on campus during winter break should they choose to remain in the country. Students are required to register for housing or apply for a “Continuous Housing Request” until the application deadline of Friday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. 

The new guidelines for gatherings include the postponement or cancellation of “large-scale indoor undergraduate student social gatherings on or off campus that anticipate more than 75 people.” This excludes classroom instruction or events held for academic reasons and overseen by an instructor. Any indoor undergraduate student organization social gatherings of 20 – 75 students and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people must be registered at https://clever.princeton.edu

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Student performing arts groups with previously scheduled performances will be permitted to proceed with new precautions, including the presence of professional staff enforcing mask compliance, testing of performers three times the week of the performance, and social distancing in offstage areas. As previously stated, gatherings in undergraduate student dorm rooms, suites, or off-campus residences may not exceed 20 people.

“Contact tracing suggests that a number of cases are connected with social gatherings, including gatherings in eating clubs,” wrote Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss in an email to The Daily Princetonian.

Hotchkiss confirmed that the policy changes will apply to eating clubs as well. He added that other campus spaces, such as libraries, dining halls, and student activity spaces remain open at full capacity at this time. 

In emails to members, eating club presidents outlined the implications of these changes on upcoming events and day-to-day operations. In accordance with University regulations, all eating clubs will postpone the upcoming winter formals and nights out, and all eating clubs will be members-only during all meals until restrictions are lifted.

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Eating clubs have each responded differently to the guidelines and have implemented unique measures to reduce the risk of transmission. 

In an email to members of the Cap and Gown Club, president Alan Lin ’22 outlined specific dining policies the club will enforce. The new policies include eating in small groups of no more than three and social distancing of at least six feet between groups. A block system has also been implemented, meaning that “members with last names A-L will eat during the first half of dinner, from 6:00pm-6:45pm. Members with last names M-Z will eat during the second half of dinner, from 6:45pm-7:30pm.” This system does not apply to breakfast or lunch meal times. 

In an email to members of the Tower Club, president Savannah Hampton ’22 highlighted the members-only policy within the club and reminded members to wear masks at all times when not eating or drinking.

“As is the case all over the University, failure to follow COVID guidelines will result in consequences. For Tower, this brings the possibility of membership strikes,” Hampton wrote.

In addition to University contact tracing, Hampton is encouraging members to reach out to her directly if they do test positive, ensuring that this will be kept entirely confidential, in an effort to remain transparent with members on the number of cases the club has.   

In an email to the members of the Quadrangle Club, president Hector Betanzos ’22 outlined similar guidelines. Members were also notified that club traditions such as 'Ruits and the "bottle cap game'' were suspended until further notice.

The eating clubs have modified their original plans for winter formals. At Quad, Tower, and Cap, catering has already been ordered, so the food for such events is being repurposed for ‘fancy dinners’ where members are encouraged to dress formally for an evening of fine dining.

Eating clubs are also stressing the importance of new sanitary policies as well, including the usage of hand sanitizer and gloves in dining areas.

Acknowledging the disappointment these new guidelines have caused among students, Calhoun ended the announcement of these policies on a positive note.

“Once again, we wish you good health and, we hope, good cheer, as you finish this fall semester,” she wrote.

Bhoomika Chowdhary is a senior writer who often covers University affairs/policy and research. She can be reached at bhoomika@princeton.edu. She is also a senior copy editor for the Prince.

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