President Eisgruber writes to the Princeton community about the state of the University and planning for the academic year ahead

Monday, May 4, 2020

By The Office of Communications

Princeton will decide in early July whether the undergraduate teaching program will be online or residential in the fall term. The University is exploring ways to safely and responsibly reopen Princeton’s laboratories, libraries, and other facilities when state law permits.

Message to the Princeton Community from Christopher L. Eisgruber

Dear members of the Princeton community,

Eight weeks ago, I asked the University to move instruction online to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus.  My message promised that we would reassess the need for virtual instruction by April 5.  In early March, it was still possible to hope that the disruption might prove short-term.

That is no longer so.  We confront a durable and damaging public health crisis that will number among American history’s greatest upheavals.  I write now to update you about the state of the University and our planning for the year ahead.

I do so keenly aware that this virus has disrupted lives and sown distress throughout our community.  Many among us have lost friends or loved ones to COVID-19.  Others are struggling to recover from the infection or are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the shutdowns caused by the pandemic.  I have heard several heartbreaking stories about the toll this virus has taken on Princeton families.  All of you have my deepest sympathies and best wishes.

This crisis has required us to do hard things already, and I am grateful to all of you—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—who have stepped up to help the University and your local communities.  There are undoubtedly more hard things to come.  That is, I know, an unwelcome thought.  The pandemic came upon us swiftly, and its impact and duration are in many ways tough to grasp.  As we look ahead, it is important to assess honestly the difficult challenges that confront not only our University, but our country and indeed the world.

In its early days, the pandemic seemed to many of us like a terrible storm or natural disaster.  Metaphors about “waves of infection” and “sheltering in place” reinforced that idea.  These comparisons, however, fall short of capturing the crisis we face.  Storms and natural disasters are sudden events.  The recovery process, even when long and difficult, takes place after the event has occurred.  The pandemic will not pass quickly.  We cannot simply hunker down, pick up the pieces, and return to normalcy.

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