Princeton University Delays Start of Spring Semester, Bans Students From Leaving the County

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
December 29, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021

As part of Princeton University’s response to the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in New Jersey, students returning to campus from winter break will not be allowed to travel outside of the county unless they have “extraordinary” reasons.

The earliest return date for the Ivy League school’s undergraduate students, who are currently on a recess, will be pushed back by one week to Jan. 14, according to a message sent to students by the administrators.

“Because the pandemic continues and the highly transmissible Omicron variant presents yet another challenge to public health, the University has decided to organize a gradual return for undergraduate students,” Jill Dolan, the dean of the college, and W. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for campus life, wrote in the message.

The undergraduates’ return for the 2022 spring semester will be staggered between Jan. 14 and 23 to help “flatten the curve of the campus positivity rate,” Dolan and Calhoun wrote. Students must sign up for a specific return date, then submit a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

In addition, the university is imposing travel restrictions to make sure students stay close to its main campus in Mercer County and satellite locations in Plainsboro Township in Middlesex County.

“Beginning January 8 through mid-February, all undergraduate students who have returned to campus will not be permitted to travel outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township for personal reasons, except in extraordinary circumstances,” the message read, adding that officials will revisit the policy by mid-February to decide whether to extend it.

Earlier this month, Princeton mandated that all eligible undergraduates submit proof that they have received a booster dose by Jan. 31. According to the university’s website, 99 percent of undergraduates, 98 percent of graduate students, and 96 percent of faculty and staff have been vaccinated before the winter recess.

Princeton is among a growing list of colleges and universities that have either delayed their spring semesters or will begin the semester with online instructions. In New York, Columbia University announced that the first two weeks of the spring term will be moved online. In New Jersey, Kean and Felician Universities said the spring semester will be taught remotely throughout January.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Jersey is one of the nation’s leading states in new COVID-19 cases. As of Dec. 28, the Garden State has seen a 7-day average of 1,135 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 2,008 in New York City, 1,953 in the District of Columbia, and 844 in the rest of the State of New York. The nationwide 7-day case rate is 506 per 100,000 people.

Bill Pan