Students seen here moving out March 13 were among the thousands of undergrads who have left campus as part of the University’s coronavirus measures.
Beverly Schaefer

March 16, 2020

Amid the commotion of packing and making travel plans, some seniors found time to complete Princeton traditions, including a departure through FitzRandolph Gate. “It’s definitely not the way I had expected I’d walk through FitzRandolph Gate,” Alaa Ghoneim ’20 told PAW. “It’s disappointing that we might not have the ceremony that I’ve dreamed of for the past four years. I’m kind of conflicted because I know we should be practicing social distancing, but it was kind of a nice last thing that we could do. I think we’re still hopeful that things will get better and that we’ll be able to come back for Commencement.” Former Undergraduate Student Government president Zarnab Virk ’20 added, “The whole thing was arranged very informally, but I’m glad the Class of 2020 got to have one last unifying experience.” 

READ MORE President Eisgruber ’83’s March 17 message to the University community

Not all festivities were as tame as strolling through the gate, though, and in response to large gatherings and “disruptive behavior,” Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan wrote a message to students warning that “continued violations of University health and safety guidelines and University policy may result in disciplinary consequences.”

Some students who expected to stay on campus to complete lab work for their senior theses will be heading home. According to The Daily Princetonian, Senior Associate Dean of the College Claire M. Fowler explained in an email that only “a small number of seniors who have been identified by their departments as having a critical need to access campus resources” will be allowed to stay. Several science departments are adjusting their thesis requirements as a result.

The Prince editorial board suggested that, in the midst of uncertainty about online classes, the University should adjust its grading scale for the spring semester. “While we commend the University’s efforts to protect students and anticipate the myriad difficulties they will face, we remain concerned about Princeton’s transition to the virtual classroom,” the board wrote. “While acknowledging it is an imperfect solution, this Board holds that the University should move all classes to a P/D/F-only grading scale.”

Over the weekend, two more cases of Princeton staff members with coronavirus were confirmed, bringing the total to three. The University announced new guidance for staff members, encouraging work-from-home arrangements for those whose duties do not require them to be physically present to do their jobs and safe-distancing precautions for those who still need to be on campus. Princeton was “working with union officials and management to ensure that duties can continue to be performed in a manner that maximizes both safety and flexibility,” Vice President for Human Resources Lianne Sullivan-Crowley wrote in an email to all staff. Sullivan-Crowley also announced designated COVID-19 days off for employees facing hardship situations related to the coronavirus.

Alumnus Noah Savage ’08, a broadcaster for Princeton basketball games and standup comedian, announced on Twitter that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Savage discussed the situation in an episode of his podcast, telling listeners that his condition is improving. He was able to be tested in part because he has asthma, and he urged people to take the virus seriously and stay home as much as possible.   

March 13, 2020

Friday afternoon, the University shared news from the New Jersey Health Department that one of the two Princeton staff members under self-isolation had tested positive for COVID-19. “The staff member remains in self-isolation, and we are working to ensure they have the support and access to care that they need,” the University announcement said. Test results for the second staff member were still pending. A Princeton student with flu-like symptoms remains in isolation at McCosh Health Center pending results of a test for COVID-19. People who had been in close contact with the two staff members now in self-isolation have been contacted and are in self-quarantine as a precaution, the University said.

READ MORE The University’s website for sharing the latest information related to COVID-19

Princeton students studying abroad in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Ireland received emails urging them to return to their permanent residence. The update was in response to a 30-day government ban on travel between the U.S. and Europe beginning March 13. Some students requested to stay, according to The Daily Princetonian, and received a follow-up email from study-abroad adviser Johanna Wagner telling students they must sign a form releasing the University from various responsibilities. 

The Department of Public Safety announced changes to building access to reduce the number of visitors to campus. Starting March 14, faculty, staff, and students will need a University ID to enter most buildings, including dormitories, academic buildings, and offices.

Other closures in and around Princeton were announced by McCarter Theatre, which is suspending live performances and other events through at least March 31; the Princeton Garden Theatre, which is closed through March 26; and the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, which is sending  employees home to work effective until at least March 29.

Original story, March 12, 2020

The University’s initial decision to move spring-semester courses online due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus envisioned an early April reevaluation of how long virtual instruction would continue. On March 11, Princeton updated its plans, announcing that all undergraduates were to leave by March 19 and remain off campus for the remainder of the semester, except for those with certain academic, financial, travel, housing, or immigration and visa situations that made it necessary to stay.

“We know you’re heartbroken at the prospect of leaving your friends, professors, and other campus colleagues,” Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote in a letter to students. “And we know this is not how you expected to study and participate in campus life at Princeton. … But our number one goal during this crisis is to ensure the health and safety of our students and community.”

Students who meet one or more of the following conditions will be permitted to stay, according the letter from Dolan and Calhoun:

  • A senior who must conduct lab or other Princeton-based research on campus that’s required for your senior thesis;
  • A student who faces housing insecurity (homelessness or a precarious living situation);
  • A student who faces financial insecurity;
  • A student previously certified “independent for the purposes of financial aid”;
  • An athlete still in competition and required to be on campus;
  • Currently residing in “family housing.”

International students who have immigration, travel, or visa restrictions, or whose home country is one to which travel from the United States is restricted, are also able to stay on campus, according to the letter. (Read more about Princeton’s international students below.)On March 12, the University announced that one student who was exhibiting flu-like symptoms had been placed in isolation at McCosh Health Center, pending the results of a test for COVID-19. Two Princeton staff members in self-quarantine are still awaiting test results. They attended an off-campus event in late February where, according to Planet Princeton, five guests have since tested positive for COVID-19 — two from the Boston area and three Pennsylvania residents.

In other coronavirus-related developments, the University’s eating clubs will shut down March 13 and remain closed until at least April 5, according to The Daily PrincetonianThe Prince suspended print production March 11 but plans to continue reporting on coronavirus and other campus news online.

Princeton Journeys trips to Tanzania and Australiaboth of which departed in March, went on as planned but without faculty or staff, in accordance with Princeton’s travel advisory, according to Bridget St. Clair, executive manager of the alumni travel program. “Our third-party tour operators proceeded with the educational travel programs as planned, and travelers were able to make individual decisions whether or not to continue their participation in the trip,” St. Clair said. “The University’s planning horizon is currently through April 5, and discussions are ongoing about Princeton Journeys beyond that date.” She added that tour operators, ground suppliers, and co-sponsoring institutions were working on options for all upcoming trips on the Journeys roster.

International Students Respond to Coronavirus Policies

Since University officials announced that most students will have to vacate campus by March 19, international students — many of whom are eligible to remain, according to the University’s criteria — have had to grapple with what to do next.

“It’s been really chaotic,” said Jack Allen ’21, from Manchester, England. He plans on flying home Sunday, having booked his ticket when the announcement was made. “I’m obviously really saddened that we have to finish the spring semester like this.”

Allen’s decision to return home comes at the advice of the Davis International Center, which wrote in an email to international students on the evening of March 11 that “in most cases, the safest option is to return home.”

Exceptions include students for whom going home means returning to a CDC-designated Level 2 or 3 country or a USDOS Level 4 or Level 3 country; who are nationals of a country subject to a travel ban and would need to apply for a new visa to return to the United States; whose visas have expired or are at high risk for a visa denial, or who do not have a “good environment at home for learning.”

“It’s hard to think about the situation and go on with your normal commitments,” said Riccardo Lapi ’21 from Tuscany, Italy. Some professors have canceled classes and postponed midterm deadlines to give students a chance to figure out next steps. Given that Italy has been categorized as a Risk Level 3 country by the CDC, Lapi will be staying on campus for the remainder of the semester.

As a general rule, international students in the United States must receive in-person instruction for their academic visas to be valid. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recently allowed schools to “temporarily adopt other learning methods to better comply with government health requirements,” according to Albert Rivera, the director of the Davis International Center.

As for seniors who are concerned about their Optional Practical Training (OPT) applications to live and work in the U.S. post-graduation, Rivera wrote, “there is no indication that travel alone will place your application in jeopardy.”

Since students must be physically present in the United States to apply for OPT, many are worried that leaving the country before the visa is received may lead to complications for their future plans.

“If I’m not in the States to pick up my [new] visa and try to re-enter the country with an outdated visa, I’ll have trouble getting back in,” explained Sally Hahn ’20, from Seoul, South Korea. “Because of that, I don’t want to leave the country in the next few weeks.” By Jimin Kang ’21