Announcement to Undergraduate Families on Reopening of Campus, Fall 2020

July 6, 2020

We’re writing to you to underscore President Eisgruber’s news about our plans for reopening campus in fall 2020.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic means that we’re far from returning to business as usual at Princeton. Every college and university faces unique challenges and constraints related to the pandemic, and Princeton is no exception.

We believe we can bring half of our undergraduate students back to campus each semester, as long as those in residence observe the public health guidelines and University policies required to sustain the well-being and to protect the health of our community. Your student will be invited to come back in the fall or the spring, depending on their class cohort (first-years/juniors, fall; sophomores/seniors, spring).

We’re excited to begin welcoming students back to Princeton. But everyone must understand that the campus to which students will return will look very different than usual. Even students in residence will be taking most of their classes online. Everyone on campus will be required to follow health and safety protocols and student activities will be modified or limited in response to the pandemic.

Faculty, staff, community members, and many others support your student’s academic and co-curricular experience. We urge you to remind your student that their actions and choices when they’re with us on campus next year will have an enormous impact on the health and welfare of every person with whom they come in contact.

Our top priority must be public health. The pandemic requires us to focus on the whole community, which means we won’t always be able to respond affirmatively to individual students’ expectations and preferences—whether about academics, residential life, or co-curricular opportunities—when they conflict with the public good.

Do know that because of the pandemic, Princeton is making an unprecedented exception to its residency requirement this academic year and no enrolled undergraduate student will be required to live on campus. Even if they’re invited to be in residence, undergraduates are free to enroll for the year but to live at home or elsewhere. We realize that personal comfort with risk levels might inform their choices.

We hope, however, that your student will remain enrolled for the entire year so that they can continue to progress toward their degree and graduate on time.

Each student must understand clearly what it will mean to live on campus for a semester:

  • Most instruction will continue to be remote, except for those occasions when faculty are able to teach a seminar or a precept or a lab for students who are on campus. The exceptions to remote teaching will be announced as plans become clearer throughout the summer.
  • Courses held residentially will require social distancing, face-coverings, and special care in entering and exiting buildings and classrooms.
  • Each student will have their own room and movement within residential colleges and dormitories will be restricted.
  • Every person on campus will be required to wear a face-covering indoors at all times, except when they’re alone in their own room.
  • Every student must sign a social contract that articulates their commitment to following health and safety regulations and to observing the behaviors designed to promote the well-being of everyone in our community.

As President Eisgruber emphasized in his letter, much will be different. But the two of us and our faculty and staff colleagues remain committed to providing your student an excellent, rigorous educational experience.

Our faculty have been working hard this summer to retool their courses for remote formats, consulting with the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning on the most innovative, engaging methods for delivering the curriculum online. McGraw also provides guidance to students on remote learning. We’ve had time to think through course formats and meeting times, small group work, and other remote modes of interaction with instructors and among students.

Our Campus Life teams are working hard to continue to find meaningful ways for students to connect with one another and with campus, whether they’re in residence or off campus, and while they’re learning remotely or in person.

We know you still have many questions. We’re determined to answer them all, but we ask for your patience as the full picture for next year unfolds. Public health protocols in New Jersey change daily and determine many of the University’s plans. Very soon, we’ll have specific information about tuition, housing, dining, leave-of-absence requests, financial aid, and all the other areas in which you might have concerns or questions. Our goal is to provide the curriculum that meets Princeton’s on-going high expectations for excellence.

Please encourage your student to read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) carefully. The answers we’ve posted represent most of what we now know. We’ll be updating these FAQs regularly with new information. In the weeks ahead, we hope to host webinars or Zoom meetings for parents, as well as to schedule virtual office hours for students and to use social media to share relevant and new information.

We continue to face unprecedented challenges and difficulties. Covid-19 places constraints on our community at the very moment when we need to come together to address systemic racism in newly powerful ways.

Nevertheless, we want to end this memo on a note of hope. Our University, comprised of a superb faculty and staff, is an energetic center where the health pandemic, race, and our social systems are addressed from the perspective of deep knowledge, great expertise, and abounding compassion.

We hope your student will continue toward their degree next year, and that we’ll see them on campus either in the fall or spring, depending on their class cohort. We need them to carry knowledge forward, from campus to well beyond our gates.

We hope that you and yours are healthy and safe as the pandemic continues to recede and to surge. We also hope that you’re finding ways to engage your student on all the momentous events unfolding before us globally and domestically. We hope your own empathy and resilience sees you through, even as these long months test our optimism and our resolve.

You’ll hear more from us as this summer progresses toward the fall.

With our very best wishes,


~Dean Jill Dolan

~VP W. Rochelle Calhoun