On Jan. 5, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) hosted a virtual Town Hall with Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, and other campus administrators to discuss the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester, student return-to-campus, and new COVID-19 protocols. Students submitted questions, either through a Google Form before the event or through a Zoom chat during the event.
“The policy for the beginning of the semester is still very much in progress,” Dean Dolan said.
The event was split into five categories of questions: arrival on campus, student group and student life, housing and dining, academics, and general questions about COVID-19 policy.
Arrival on Campus
Calhoun announced that over 4,000 undergraduates registered for a day to return to campus. Students should expect to test as soon as they return to campus. Those who arrive on a weekend will be able to submit tests on weekends during the arrival period, a departure from the regular policy during the past semester, but for students who submit a test after 10 a.m. on Jan. 23 their results will not be processed in time for them to attend class on Jan. 24.
While students are waiting for a negative test result, they are expected to avoid in-person campus activities, stay in their room, and use the grab-and-go option offered at the dining halls.
Grab-and-go will remain the primary option in dining halls for the month of January.
Students who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are exempt from the testing protocol will not have to test once they return to campus, and will continue to be exempt by University Health Services (UHS) until 90 days have passed since their positive test.
Students who tested positive over break should email their PCR test results to email@example.com.
International students arriving on campus before Jan. 14 are encouraged to reach out to the University to have their PUID reactivated in time for their return. All other students will be required to move in after Jan. 14, which was pushed back by a change in policy on Dec. 27.
Students arriving on campus for Wintersession must receive a negative test before they can participate in any in-person activities.
“There are [also] many more virtual offerings than there previously were [for Wintersession] and there are more in-person offerings the second week of Wintersession than week one,” Director for Wintersession and Campus Engagement Judy Jarvis said.
There will be no eating in the dining halls during Wintersession, according to a statement from Campus Dining.
“Our hope is to really minimize the amount of time that [Grab-and-go] is the only option,” Assistant Director for Emergency Preparedness Derek Ziegler said at the town hall.
Student Groups and Student Life
Attendance for performing arts and athletic events will be limited to those with PUIDs within the testing protocol until at least Feb. 15.
“We hope that they can be opened up to the general public later,” Dean Dolan said.
Assistant Director for Biosafety and Environmental Health Jacqueline Wagner emphasized that the under 20-person restriction in place for personal events in students’ dorms or off-campus housing does not apply to athletic events, performing arts shows, or rehearsals.
“We expect that any activities that are student-organized will follow all of our guidelines and policies,” Calhoun said. This includes events occurring off-campus.
Student organizations hosting off-campus guests or speakers are encouraged to move their events online unless it’s essential that they come to campus.
“We have not gone to a social contract, but [students] should be aware that it is a part of ‘Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities’ [to follow] public health guidance that is issued at any time,” Calhoun said when asked about disciplinary consequences for students.
There will be a Town Hall for student organizations on Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. to answer questions and address concerns.
Housing and Dining
Eating clubs will not be open for parties for the beginning of the semester, announced Calhoun. The clubs will also encourage students to use the grab-and-go system for their meals.
According to Calhoun, there will be a meeting with some members of the eating clubs later this week, with updates to this information available at a later time.
Students are also dissuaded from using the co-op model, but no formal recommendation has been put in place at this time.
Dolan emphasized that holding in-person classes is a priority. She also stated that students, including those who are immunocompromised, will not have the option to take classes virtually. A virtual option will only be allowed for students who test positive for COVID-19 during the semester. Faculty will be permitted the flexibility to run classes remotely if they or many of their students have COVID-19.
“After we establish our bubble, we are very much expecting to go back to in-person teaching and learning. There’s no intention to shift all classes to remote even at the beginning of the semester, but there may be some sections that need to be,” Dolan said.
Students must continue to wear masks in all lectures, seminars, and precepts.
“As far as classrooms go, we’re not seeing transmission when all the rules are being followed regarding face coverings,” Dolan said.
Seniors who have thesis research outside of Mercer County and Plainsboro will be exempt from the undergraduate travel restrictions on personal travel.
General Questions About COVID-19 Policy
“We are going to try to make isolation a better experience,” Director of Medical Services Melissa Marks said.
Marks explained that the University is working on reducing the time of isolation to reflect the CDC’s new isolation guidelines, cutting the recommended isolation time for those who never develop symptoms.
“We have to wait for what the New Jersey Department of Health says,” explained Marks. “I believe that we will be able to achieve the goal that we are already seeing at many other Ivy League universities, cutting their isolation to five days.”
The University is also considering using students’ dorms for isolation when the isolation dorms reach 50 to 75 percent capacity.
“Each situation will be looked at on an individual basis,” Marks said.
Regarding viruses besides COVID-19 on campus, commonly referred to collectively as “The Princeton Plague,” Marks said that those viruses “do not need medical intervention” and the immune system can fight them on its own.
“In offering care in this pandemic setting, we really have to minimize in-person visits [to McCosh] and make sure that they are appropriate and that we have to do them only when they’re necessary,” Marks said.
Executive Director of University Health Services (UHS) John Kolligian emphasized that counseling services are open for those with mental health concerns.
Calhoun added that there are resources outside of UHS or Counselling and Psychological Services (CPS), such as Wintersession, that can support student mental health.
“We’ve got a Wintersession program that is being monitored for those in person and also a ton of virtual opportunities,” Calhoun said. “Some opportunities through Wintersession are going to be outdoor events, and being outdoors, even when it’s cold, is another good way to think about mental health.”
“We know that your mental health has suffered. We know that you did not expect a college experience facing all these social and other restrictions,” Dolan added. “We are really working hard to make it safe enough to lift these restrictions.”
The town hall was moderated by Christian Potter ’22, Ashwin Mahadevan ’22, and Hannah Kapoor ’23, the outgoing USG President, Vice President, and Director of Communications, respectively.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the correct email address for students to email PCR test results.
Lia Opperman is a News staff writer for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @liamariaaaa on Instagram.