As a number of peer institutions elect to begin their semesters remotely amid Omicron variant fears, Princeton reaffirmed its Jan. 24 start date for the spring semester in a message to students today.
The University will, however, make some adjustments to what the return to campus looks like — pushing back the day students can return to dorms, staggering arrivals, and reimposing travel restrictions.
The earliest return date for students for the Spring 2022 term will be postponed by one week to Jan. 14, according to an email from Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun.
Additionally, beginning on Jan. 8, undergraduate students on campus will not be allowed to travel outside Mercer County and Plainsboro Township, except in “extraordinary circumstances.” The University will “revisit and, if possible, revise this travel restriction by February 15,” according to the message.
Restrictions on gatherings imposed before winter break will continue. Indoor gatherings “may not include food or any activity that requires removing masks,” and the 20-person limit on gatherings will remain in place.
Originally, students would have been able to return to campus on Jan. 7 at the earliest. Dolan explained in the email that the decision to delay this date comes based on modeling of the increasing COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.
“Updated modeling suggests that staggering undergraduates’ return over ten days from January 14 – 23 will help flatten the curve of the campus positivity rate, which will allow the University to better respond to the increase in positive cases we anticipate when students come back to campus,” Dolan and Calhoun wrote.
Students must sign up by 5 p.m. on Jan. 3 for a return time slot between Jan. 14 and Jan. 23.
For those who must change travel plans, Dolan wrote that “Hardship Funds” would be made available in order to accommodate the financial burdens of this change.
All students must submit a COVID-19 test upon arrival to campus and “must receive a negative test result” prior to their first in-person class or campus activity.
The University previously mandated COVID-19 booster shots, emphasizing that they would continue to be available at the clinic at Jadwin Gym starting Jan. 5.
Wintersession 2022 will proceed with some modifications. Those who have not been on campus for the entirety of winter break (Dec. 24 —Jan. 6) “will unfortunately NOT be able to take part in in-person week 1 sessions,” according to the Wintersession website. Graduate students, faculty, and staff in the testing protocol will be able to participate in these in-person sessions.
As isolation housing began approaching capacity toward the end of the Fall 2021 term, Dolan stressed that should the number of positive cases exceed isolation housing capacity, “undergraduate students who test positive for the virus may be required to isolate in their residence or dorm room.” Students in singles will be able to isolate in their own dorm rooms; however, the situation becomes complicated for those with roommates.
“If we see high need for isolation space, we’ll prioritize the isolation dorm for students who share bedrooms,” Dolan wrote in the email to undergraduates.
A USG-sponsored Town Hall will take place on Jan. 5 at 4 p.m. EST to answer further questions.
Editor’s Note: This story previously referred to Plainsboro as a county, rather than a township. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.
Anika Buch is an Assistant News Editor and Features Staff Writer for The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.