Update on Classroom Face-Covering Policies, from September 1–9, 2021

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TO: All Faculty

FROM: Gene Jarrett, Dean of the Faculty; Jill Dolan, Dean of the College; Cole Crittenden, Acting Dean of the Graduate School

RE: Update on Classroom Face-Covering Policies, from September 1–9, 2021

August 23, 2021

Colleagues, as promised, we write to update you about our classroom face-coverings policy. The temporary mask mandate put into effect on August 11 will continue and we’re now requiring face-coverings in classrooms used for teaching and learning.

From September 1 (the first day of class) through September 9, Princeton will enact the following rules for face-coverings in classrooms:

  • Fully vaccinated instructors may remove their mask for all or part of the class at their own discretion. Six feet of distance between unmasked faculty and students is best, when circumstances permit.
  • Students must wear masks throughout the class. If the instructor finds it necessary for a student to remove their mask for a short period of time, they may do so, as long as only one student has their mask down or off at any one time, to the extent that’s feasible.
  • For classes in which 12 or fewer students are enrolled and attending, the instructor may decide whether students should be allowed to remove their masks for all or part of the class.

Our primary concern is the quality of teaching, research, scholarship, and the residential learning of our students across campus. We understand that face-coverings in the classroom don’t facilitate optimal teaching and learning, which are always our goal.

But the first ten days of the semester are crucial to establishing a baseline for our campus COVID positivity rate, as students and faculty return to campus from around the country and the world and enter our testing protocol. Once we’ve collected our initial test data, we’ll be able to determine which way we need to adjust our face-covering policies. But during this initial 10-day period, we’ll keep our promise that teaching and learning will be fully in person this fall.

Given the high vaccination rate of students, faculty, and staff, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to loosen these restrictions after this initial period. As President Eisgruber noted in his blog post last week, our asymptomatic testing protocol should keep us quite safe. The very few instances of transmission that have been recorded in classrooms exemplify how safe higher education facilities have been across the country.

We realize that many of you have unvaccinated young children at home, and that, off campus, we all circulate through the world in numerous ways. We know that breakthrough infections can occur; we know that some of our oldest, most cherished campus classrooms don’t provide state-of-the-art ventilation. The multiple measures taken to protect our health on campus should mitigate the occasional less-than-ideal circumstance. We’re working hard to keep them to a minimum.

If you have personal health concerns that might require a medical accommodation, please notify the Office of the Dean of the Faculty at odof@Princeton.edu by this Wednesday, August 25. The DOF will provide you with guidance on how to initiate the accommodation process, which will require your provider to send medical documentation directly to University Health Services. Please do not send medical documentation to DOF or other University officials. Also, graduate students serving as Assistants in Instruction who need to request a medical accommodation should first be directed to the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

We’ve collaborated with numerous colleagues across the University to construct a comprehensive list of faculty-specific Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which we encourage you to consult. We’ll update them regularly, as more questions are posed, refined, and answered.

In the meantime, we’re grateful for your continued vigilance and for all you’ve done to allow us to resume residential living and learning for our students. This pandemic continues to be difficult. But we hope the pleasure of real-life, real-time engagement, however mediated by face-coverings, provides affirmation and perhaps even joy.

With our best wishes,

Gene, Jill & Cole