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Eisgruber talks COVID-19, DEI, residential expansion in annual State of the University address

<h5>University President Christopher Eisgruber in video introduction to "State of the University" address</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of Madeleine LeBeau / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
University President Christopher Eisgruber in video introduction to "State of the University" address
Courtesy of Madeleine LeBeau / The Daily Princetonian

On Thursday, Feb. 3, President Eisgruber ’83 issued his annual State of the University letter and accompanying video, which addressed the University’s ongoing challenges with COVID-19, expansion of the University’s residential facilities, and efforts to increase the diversity of students and faculty. He also highlighted the five Nobel Prizes awarded to University faculty and alumni, the ongoing success of the Venture Forward fundraising drive, and the “historic” return on the University’s investments in 2021.

Regarding the approach to the second year of the pandemic, Eisgruber reiterated the University’s commitment to in-person learning. 

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“We will be able to loosen or eliminate University protocols on masking, gathering, and travel [as Princeton transitions to] a post-restriction world, even if we cannot reach a post-COVID world,” he wrote.

Beyond matters relating to the pandemic, Eisgruber noted that the current expansion of the University would allow it “to say ‘yes’ to more applicants in the current undergraduate admission cycle, … to enhance more lives, … and to [make a positive impact] on the world.”

The opening of two new residential colleges in August will be accompanied by an increase in the size of the undergraduate student body by 10 percent. Eisgruber stated that the student-faculty ratio after the expansion will be “about the same” as the University’s ratio nine years ago, which according to the University Registrar was 6:1.

In addition to the new undergraduate residential colleges, Eisgruber noted that the Lake Campus, which broke ground in December, “promises to be a distinctive Princeton space that complements our historic campus and offers new flexibility and options.” The Lake Campus would most immediately serve graduate students and postdoctoral researchers as well as provide new athletic facilities for the University. 

In conjunction with the Lake Campus development, the University will add 150 geo-exchange well bores to provide carbon-neutral heating and cooling consistent with its plan towards achieving a zero carbon footprint by 2046.

Eisgruber also highlighted the importance of investment in the University’s “human talent.” 

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“We need to make sure that we find talent everywhere it exists, and that we bring together people of many groups and identities and enable all of those people to thrive here,” he wrote.

In his letter, Eisgruber also acknowledged the publication of the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annual Report last October, which featured many initiatives in the area of “human talent.” Eisgruber added that the next report will reflect greater diversification among faculty that occurred too recently to include in the October report. 

Eisgruber cited Princeton’s efforts to attract additional transfer students as well as students from low- and mid-income backgrounds. He also noted that, of the five Nobel Prize laureates among Princeton’s alumni and faculty last year, four were immigrants, and the fifth was a dual citizen.

“[We] must attract and support talent from every group and every sector of society,” he wrote.

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With regard to the financial health of the University, Eisgruber noted the ongoing Venture Forward fundraising initiative. Venture Forward is a “mission-driven campaign … with no specific dollar goal.” It focuses on “fundraising and engagement initiatives … around key elements of the University’s strategic plan.”

Eisgruber also discussed the return on the University’s endowment in 2021.

Under the management of the Princeton University Investment Company (PRINCO), the endowment had a “historic 46.9 percent return” last year. Approximately 60 percent of the University’s operating revenue comes from the endowment, which is expected to fund, in part, the 25-percent graduate stipend increases next year. 

Eisgruber will be holding two Q&A sessions next week for the University community. Students and faculty are invited to the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting on Monday, Feb. 14 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Frist Multipurpose Room. A second town hall for University staff members will be held in Richardson Auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 16 from 10 to 11 a.m.

Madeleine LeBeau is a News Contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at mlebeau@princeton.edu, on Instagram @madeleinelebeau, or on Twitter @MadeleineLeBeau.  

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