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Princeton stands by policy to preserve in-person learning

<h6>Courtesy of Lazarena Lazarova ’21</h6>
Courtesy of Lazarena Lazarova ’21

On a campus dominated by the evolving realities of the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person instruction has emerged as a flashpoint for students and administrators. While some students have called for online learning options to be made available to all, administrations recently reaffirmed their commitment to in-person learning.

Acting Dean of the Graduate School Cole Crittenden GS ’05, Dean of the Faculty Gene Jarrett ’97, and Dean of the College Jill Dolan wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Princetonian on Jan. 25 that they “remain fully committed to residential, in-person teaching for all students this semester.”

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“In light of our vaccination and booster requirements, our masking requirements, and our current twice-weekly testing requirements for all students, we continue to believe that our mitigation efforts are sufficient to continue with the in-person learning that is so central to our mission,” they wrote.

The op-ed reaffirmed the memo that Dolan sent to University faculty on Jan. 12, which instructed faculty that “in the first three weeks of the semester, you have the discretion to adjust the format of your course to address you or your students’ absences from class because of a COVID illness or positive test.”

The University is “not expecting ‘hybrid’ teaching, in which the instructor teaches fully to the online and in-attendance students at once,” according to the memo.

However, professors are encouraged to offer solutions throughout the semester to students who cannot attend class in person as a result of being in isolation, such as by sharing live Zoom links or recordings of lectures.

According to the memo, the University is asking “that [faculty] make appropriate adjustments for students in isolation/quarantine, as well as try to maintain an in-person component.”

Dolan acknowledged that “an open Zoom link on a laptop doesn’t allow the same interactivity and engagement as in-person instruction.” 

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Michael Strauss, Chair of the Astrophysics Department, wrote to the ‘Prince’ in an email that his department is “simply following the university guidelines, namely to hold classes in person, but Zoom for those who cannot attend for one reason or another.”

About a dozen students joined his first AST 203: The Universe lecture via Zoom rather than attending the class in person. The Office of the Course Registrar lists 146 students as being enrolled in the course.

“Chemistry is offering all our courses in person,” Gregory Scholes, Chair of the Chemistry Department, wrote to the ‘Prince.’

“In cases where students have to isolate, different classes work in different ways — those best suited for the class and situation — to make sure those absent students are kept involved with what is going on in the class,” he added.

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Jessica Cui ’24 said while her classes have all been in-person so far, there are Zoom links available for those in isolation.

Another student, Kelly Park ’25, noted in an interview with the ‘Prince’ how the professor for her Korean class sent out a survey to the class before the first meeting to assess how comfortable students were with meeting in person. As a result of the survey, the first few classes were held online.

The week of Jan. 14–21 had a maximum of 241 students in isolation after receiving positive COVID-19 tests, putting isolation housing at capacity.

Paige Cromley is a staff writer for the Features, News, and Prospect sections. She can be reached at pcromely@princeton.edu.

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