Princeton will move to virtual instruction following spring break and decrease the number of gatherings on campus.
Dear members of the Princeton community,
I’m writing to update you on a series of new policies that Princeton University will be implementing in the coming days in response to COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus. Since I last wrote to you, the epidemic has progressed. Though we continue to believe the risk of transmission on our campus is currently low, we know that community spread is occurring in various parts of the United States, including in the state of New York, which has declared a state of emergency. University campuses in the Ivy League and elsewhere are adapting policies in response.
While much remains unknown about COVID-19’s epidemiology and impact, our medical advisers tell us that we should proceed on the assumption that the virus will spread more broadly and eventually reach our campus. They also tell us that the best time to put in place policies to slow the spread of the virus is now, before we begin to see cases on our campus, rather than later. Acting now will also give students who wish to do so the option to stay home after Spring Break and meet academic requirements remotely.
In order to help mitigate the growing risk of transmission, we will begin instituting a series of policies and practices this week based on the concept of social distancing. Our goal is to decrease the number of instances that require community members to gather in large groups or spend extended periods of time in close proximity with each other. To achieve this goal, we will virtualize any activities, such as lectures, seminars, and precepts, that can be put online. We will continue to support, where possible and subject to appropriate restrictions, research, educational, and campus life activities that require physical presence. These measures are being taken to help ensure the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, and to decrease any potential impacts on the larger community.
Though we recognize that a personal, “high touch” educational environment is one of Princeton’s great strengths, we also recognize that these are extraordinary times that require exceptional measures to deal with a health risk that affects us all. For that reason, we are creating, supporting, and mandating alternative ways of meeting our academic and other programmatic requirements in ways consistent with social distancing. This will include a mandatory, temporary move for all lectures, seminars, and precepts to virtual instruction starting on Monday, March 23. We encourage students to consider staying home after Spring Break. If students choose to remain home after Spring Break, we will make sure that they are able to meet their academic requirements remotely.
To protect the health of our community, we will also need to limit the number and size of campus gatherings and meetings, and restrict University-sponsored travel. Detailed guidance will be available on the University’s website later today. Faculty will receive information later this morning about support for virtual instruction, and we will be sharing guidance throughout the week with staff about how these new policies will impact daily operations.
We understand that these and other measures will cause significant disruption and inconvenience to the campus community, but we strongly believe that actions taken now will have the greatest chance of decreasing risk, and that the potential consequences of not acting could far outweigh these short-term disruptions. These new policies will be in place through Sunday, April 5. We will reassess the policies as that date approaches and communicate any changes as early as circumstances permit.
I would again like to thank the members of our staff who have been working on these issues around the clock. The University is lucky to have a dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed team helping us navigate and respond to this complex, evolving situation. We will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners to address the impacts of COVID-19 based on the best available public health expertise and recommendations.
I appreciate that these measures impose significant restrictions and costs on projects that matter tremendously to each of us. I also understand that people may have different views about how to respond to the risks and uncertainties that we face, but I ask all of you to join in supporting these policies, which address a threat affecting us all. Princeton University has always been a community that cares for one another, and we will need that spirit now more than ever. I thank you for your patience and assistance as we work through this evolving situation. I am confident that we will continue to pull together to meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff.
With best wishes, Chris Eisgruber