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Princeton requires lectures and seminars to go online-only, a temporary move amid COVID-19 outbreak

Princeton requires lectures and seminars to go online-only, a temporary move amid COVID-19 outbreak

MONDAY, March 09, 2020
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Classes at Princeton University will be held online and students are being encouraged to consider staying home after spring break, the school's president announced Monday, a preemptive move intended to slow the spread of coronavirus on the New Jersey campus.

Princeton became the latest university to take dramatic measures to protect the health of students, faculty and others as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, with some colleges closing temporarily to disinfect buildings and some moving rapidly to virtual instruction. Columbia University canceled classes Monday and Tuesday in preparation for a shift to online classes. Stanford University and the University of Washington announced a switch to virtual classes for the remainder of the winter quarter, and Rice University plans online-only classes this week.

At Princeton, no one has tested positive for COVID-19 so far.

The new policies intended to increase social distancing will be in place through April 5, according to university officials, and will be reassessed as that date approaches.

"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," the university's president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, wrote in a letter to campus Monday. "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 allow students to meet their academic requirements remotely, he wrote.

"We encourage students to consider staying home after Spring Break," Eisgruber wrote. Princeton will also limit the number and size of campus gatherings, and restrict university-sponsored travel, as multiple other universities have done in recent days.

Any lectures, seminars and precepts that can be taught virtually will be, he wrote, beginning March 23, when the school's spring break has ended.

"Though we recognize that a personal, 'high touch' educational environment is one of Princeton's great strengths," Eisgruber wrote, "we also recognize that these are extraordinary times that require exceptional measures to deal with a health risk that affects us all."

Eisgruber spoke to the difficult choices university leaders must make in the face of the rapidly evolving outbreak, acknowledging "that these measures impose significant restrictions and costs on projects that matter tremendously to each of us." People have different views about how to respond to the risks and uncertainties but, he wrote, "I ask all of you to join in supporting these policies, which address a threat affecting us all."