Next Steps in Resumption Activities in the Sciences and Engineering

View the memo as a PDF.

Office of the Dean of the Faculty
Office of the Dean for Research
Office of the Dean of the Graduate School

To: Assistant, Associate and Full Professors; Senior Lecturers; Dept. Chairs; Dept. Managers in
Divisions III and IV

From: Sanjeev R. Kulkarni, Dean of the Faculty
Pablo G. Debenedetti, Dean for Research
Cole M. Crittenden, Acting Dean of the Graduate School

Subject: Next Steps in Resumption of Activities

Date: December 1, 2020

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to provide important information about next steps in the resumption of activities.


As you know, President Eisgruber has invited our undergraduate students back to campus for the spring term. The return of undergraduate students will occur under strict conditions, including requirements to sign a Social Contract and quarantine upon arrival on campus, prohibitions on parties and hosting visitors, and strict restrictions on travel. As President Eisgruber noted in the letter announcing the decision, this fall “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.” The licensing of our testing laboratory was an important development because it will reduce our dependence on outside vendors, and thus facilitate faster turnaround times for the majority of our tests. We believe our capacity to provide comprehensive testing and robust contact tracing, when coupled with strict adherence to health and public safety measures, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing, will allow the campus community to engage in a range of scholarly activities under more favorable conditions than have hitherto been possible. It is in this spirit that we write to you today.

The resumption information provided below involves primarily faculty and theoretical/computational graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

We are prioritizing the return to campus of those graduate students and post-docs whose living conditions are an impediment to their work. We thus ask faculty and researchers to continue working from home if they can do so effectively. Please note that this is a change with respect to our previous policy, which was that work that can be done remotely must be done remotely. In other words, we are proceeding with resumption of activities, but we ask for continued cooperation from the campus community, especially faculty, in helping us keep our campus density as low as possible.

Changes that Affect Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty and Senior Lecturers

Assistant, Associate and Full Professors, as well as Senior Lecturers who need to use their office as a single-occupancy space will be allowed to do so, but are strongly encouraged to work from home if they can do so. The authorization process for faculty use of their on-campus office is very simple (see below), and does not require faculty to provide a justification.

Researchers doing theoretical and computational work have been required to work remotely since March. We are now providing a mechanism for them to return to campus, if working remotely is a major impediment. PIs will be responsible for submitting detailed plans documenting how this will be done (see below for details.) Plans must be approved by the Department Chair and the Dean for Research.

Access to Departmental Space for Graduate Students, Post-Docs and Other DOF Appointees

Researchers doing theoretical and computational work have been required to work remotely since March. If working remotely is a major impediment, theoretical/computational graduate students and post-doctoral researchers should inform their advisor/PI. If the PI agrees, the PI is responsible for formulating a plan that will allow the return of researchers to their departmental offices under conditions that conform with strict health and safety protocols (see below for details). Plans must be approved by the Department Chair and the Dean for Research. Other DOF appointees (e.g., instructors and lecturers) for whom working remotely is a major impediment should contact their departmental manager. Please note that we are prioritizing the return to campus of those graduate students and post-docs whose living conditions are an impediment to their work.

Implementation Process

  • Assistant, Associate, Full Professors and Senior Lecturers who need to use their private offices as single-occupancy spaces must notify the department manager of their intent to resume on-campus activity before returning to their offices. We continue to encourage faculty to work from their home whenever possible.
  • The Office of the Executive Vice President will provide department managers with a spreadsheet of all department personnel (tenured and tenure-track faculty, senior lecturers, instructors, lecturers, postdocs and other researchers, and administrative and support staff) to allow simple and accurate listing of personnel who will be on campus, and of personnel who need to be enrolled in the COVID-19 testing program because they will be teaching in person or be on campus at least eight hours per week. Questions may be directed to [email protected]
  • Theory and computational faculty may prepare a Research Non-lab Operations Plan (RNOP) if continued remote work represents a major impediment to members of their research group. These plans to resume on-campus activities must be submitted to the department chair/institute director for approval, with a copy to the department manager. After receiving departmental approval, the plan must be submitted to the Office of the Dean for Research for final review and approval. Instructions and process information are available online.
  • Departments may update their Academic Research Infrastructure Plans (ARIPs) to include additional spaces or their use in support of operations, taking into account personnel who may require on-campus presence (e.g., lecturers,  instructors administrative staff, or graduate students who depend on departmental spaces instead of PI-managed individual group space.) Departments are expected to develop their own criteria for managing such space. Faculty with approved Research Lab Operations Plans (RLOPs) may update them as needed at any time. Questions may be directed to [email protected].
  • Some RNOPs may request the use of departmental space, as distinct from individual research group space. Once such plans are approved, department leadership will communicate with PIs and their research groups about the process, eligibility and schedule for utilizing the approved departmental spaces.
  • All individuals coming to campus (whether just once or regularly) must do the following: 
    • Complete mandatory online training “Safe Practices for the Resumption of On-Campus Operations” from the Employee Learning Center. (Note: All enrolled graduate students have already completed mandatory training for students as a condition for enrollment this academic year, so the training requirement is already satisfied for them.)
    • Complete a COVID-19 Daily Symptom Check each day they are scheduled or plan to come to campus,
    • Participate in the COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program if on campus more than eight hours per week, or teaching in person.
  • Department managers should identify all individuals in their department who have requested access to Firestone Library and branch libraries. Any member of the campus community who has completed the online COVID training and has an active University ID will continue to be able to use the libraries’ pickup services.
  • The Princeton Playbook: Phased Resumption of On Campus Operations is a comprehensive resource for workplace policies and guidelines.
  • The Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research has been updated with new guidance on the use of offices and workspaces by researchers and other health and safety information.

In closing, we remind you that our policies are informed by developments related to the pandemic, and may change and become more restrictive if circumstances warrant. This includes the possibility of having to “lock down” all or parts of the campus for extended periods because of high infection rates at the University or in the surrounding community.

With all good wishes,

Sanj, Cole and Pablo