Princeton University to bring undergraduates back to campus for the spring semester

Undergraduate students at Princeton University will be able to return to the campus for the 2021 spring semester even though most courses will still continue online, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber announced in a letter to the campus community on Wednesday.

Any undergraduate who still wants to learn remotely can do so. Many graduate students already returned in the fall. Eisbruber said most instruction will remain online, even for undergraduates who reside on or near the campus. Classes with an in-person component will be offered in a hybrid format, meaning every class will be available in an online format to students studying at Princeton or remotely.

“During the fall term, we cultivated strong public health norms and practices on the Princeton campus; monitored and learned from experiences with the virus at Princeton and elsewhere; and established an on-campus testing laboratory,” Eisgruber wrote. “In light of that work, we have concluded that, if we test the campus population regularly, and if everyone on campus rigorously adheres to public health guidance about masking, social distancing and other practices, we can welcome a far greater number of students back to Princeton.”

Eisbruber acknowledged that COVID-19 infection rates in the United States and in New Jersey are high and rising. But he said that we now know more than we did in the summer about steps to keep the community safe. The safety of the campus, and the communities around it, will depend on vigilant compliance with public health guidance, he said.

“As our undergraduates consider whether to opt for a residential or a remote experience this spring, we encourage them to think carefully about the special responsibilities and conditions associated with participating in our residential community while the pandemic continues,” Eisgruber wrote. “Protecting our individual and collective well-being will require the commitment and cooperation of everyone who elects to come to campus in the spring. We want to make sure that all of our students appreciate the challenges associated with residential life during a pandemic. A choice to return to campus is a choice to accept limitations and take on new responsibilities.”

Eisgruber mentioned some of the measures students will be required to follow:

·       Masking and social distancing requirements will apply throughout campus.

·       All undergraduate students residing on campus or in the Princeton area will be required to participate in Princeton University’s coronavirus testing program and comply with all instructions related to contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation.

·       Parties and most other social gatherings will be prohibited.

·       Undergraduate students will be prohibited from hosting visitors and will be restricted from traveling.

·       All returning undergraduates, including those from New Jersey, will be required to quarantine upon arrival to campus.

·       To reduce the risk of spread within dormitories, the university will house students on a one-to-a-bedroom basis. Depending on demand, some students may be housed near campus rather than on it. (Eisgruber did not mention what off-campus locations might be used to house students.)

·       The university may have to lock down all or part of the campus for extended periods because of high infection rates at the university or in the surrounding community.

“We expect that restrictions will have to be especially tight as we begin the term in February, when we anticipate that infection rates in the country and in New Jersey will remain high and when the weather will limit outdoor interactions. We hope, but cannot guarantee, that there will be opportunities to increase interaction, and to phase in more activities, as the term progresses,” Eisgruber wrote. “Though we now believe that our preparatory planning, policies, and testing capacity will enable us to mitigate the risk of the pandemic appropriately, we recognize that the situation around us may get worse.  We will continue to monitor developments related to the pandemic, including public health guidance and state regulations.”

Eisgruber said university officials will be in touch if the school needs to change any plans.

“All of us look forward to a time, perhaps as soon as next fall, when vaccines again make it possible to offer a fuller version of Princeton’s residential education,” Eisgruber wrote. “In the meantime, we encourage students and their families to consider carefully which option for the coming semester is best for them; we will support our students however they choose to continue their studies.”


  1. Not happy about this! Exactly what are the testing protocols? Every student tested weekly or q10 days?? How will transmission to the community be prevented…yeah, yeah, yeah- we all know about masks, distance & hand-washing – what else will the U do???

  2. what will the situation be with the shared bathrooms? How will P make sure students do not get infected in the bathrooms. What will be the meal plan to prevent infection?

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