Princeton Students Demand No Forced Evictions Due to COVID-19 Concerns

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As Princeton works to contain and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, we – Princeton students and allies – implore the University to not enforce circumstance-blind evictions upon the student body. While a few peer institutions may be taking such steps, we know that Princeton University can and should do better if the administration decides that reducing population density is the best way to mitigate public health concerns.  We instead ask that Princeton University use its vast resources to ensure that students, particularly vulnerable students, not be placed at unnecessary risk as we all work to navigate these volatile times.

Put simply, we are asking three things of Princeton University:

  1. That Princeton not impose upon students – undergraduate or graduate – an immediate evacuation from campus, and instead make clear that students have the ability to stay on campus if they need to do so.  In addition to this, we ask that certain needs (such as access to sanitary products and daily meals) be provided for or subsidized by the University.
  2. That Princeton provides subsidies for students who need to travel home from campus, if that is an option for them.  We also ask that the University provide or subsidize storage for students who will be moving off campus.
  3. That Princeton compensate student workers for missed wages over the campus’s impending shut down, as well as support custodial, dining, and landscaping staff as the University shifts towards inactivity.

We, as a community of students and allies, must recognize that students may not be able to leave campus for a myriad of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Not every student has access to permanent housing during the time the University may require students to be off-campus. A week or even a month is not enough time to find new accommodations, especially when considering that students have already paid money to live in dorms and expected to remain there until late May.
  • Given that classes have moved to an online format, not every student has access to a reliable internet connection, which impedes their ability to fulfill academic requirements for this semester. The change to this online “meeting” format also does not take into consideration some students that will be in different time zones than their professors.
  • International students may face issues with their immigration status – with regards to both their undergraduate education and their future job prospects – if they are forced to leave the country. They also may not be able to return to the US for an as-unknown amount of time if the crisis continues, further impacting their education.
  • The current residences of students may already be in epicenters of COVID-19, meaning travel and stay may put students at a significantly heightened risk of contracting the virus. This is antithetical to the goal of protecting the campus community.
  • Imploring students to return home may cause further strain and harm to students in abusive or unstable living situations. These situations, which can be difficult to document or prove, not only impact the academic performance of students but also their mental health more broadly.
  • Some students may be returning to immediate family members that are either elderly or immunocompromised, creating increased anxiety over the chance of placing loved ones in harm’s way. 

Below is the announcement sent out to the Stanford student body regarding housing and the shift to a virtual classroom.  Most importantly, the Stanford administration 1.) pledged to provide financial aid for students who couldn’t afford to spontaneously travel home, and 2.) encourages, but doesn’t strictly enforce students to leave campus. Another peer institution Princeton can look to is Yale University, which will be compensating students for missed work-study during the inactivity of campus.  All of these efforts work together to support international and first-generation, low-income students, as well students with elderly or immunocompromised members of their immediate family.

Excerpt from Stanford communication:

“UNDERGRADUATE HOUSING: Because undergraduates live on our campus in highly communal dormitories and Row houses, with shared bathrooms and dining facilities, we have concluded that reducing the concentration of people in these spaces... As such, we are asking undergraduates to leave campus at the end of the quarter if it is possible for them given their personal circumstances. For students receiving financial aid, assistance to travel home will be available where needed.

To support this effort:

  • Undergraduates who have already left, or will be leaving, campus as the winter quarter ends should not plan to return to campus until further notice...
  • For undergraduates who are currently on campus and feel they need to remain here through the spring break and the spring quarter, you are welcome to do so. The university will continue to support you through Vaden Health Center and the residences; however, you should know that other university programming will be quite limited. We will be requiring all undergraduates and co-terms residing in undergraduate housing who wish to remain on campus to submit a request through an online web form, which again will be available in a subsequent email. It is important for us to know who remains on campus, in part to provide support to you in the case of illness.”