Provost Deborah Prentice & Executive Vice President Treby Williams' Message Regarding Mandatory Vaccination Requirements and Updated Public Health Policies for Summer 2021

June 8, 2021

On June 8, Provost Deborah Prentice and Executive Vice President Treby Williams emailed all faculty and staff members the following:

In March of 2020, as students returned home in response to the first wave of COVID-19, we began a journey that none of us could have anticipated.  Looking back on those first weeks and months of the pandemic, it is striking how little we knew about the threat we were facing.  Learning together, we were able to put in place a series of policies, practices and protocols that kept our community safe while allowing us to fulfill our teaching and research mission.  Without all of you, without your hard work and creativity, we could not have met this challenge.

As President Eisgruber noted last month, we head towards the coming semester optimistic that operations on campus this fall will look much like they did pre-pandemic. We expect our students to be back on campus, our faculty to be back in their classrooms and labs, and our staff to be back to working in-person.

This optimism is grounded in the fact that the safe, effective vaccines currently available provide a way for each of us to keep ourselves and our communities safe.  As vaccine rates go up, cases of COVID-19 go down, and we are then able to relax public health protocols and University policies such as masking and social distancing. 

We want to thank all of you who have already been vaccinated.  The high vaccination rate here in New Jersey has allowed the state to begin pulling back on some of the health restrictions we have lived with for over a year, resulting in changes to our campus policies that are detailed below.  These are positive developments, but there is still work to do.

Vaccination Requirement

In order to protect the health of our community and facilitate a return to normal operations,

Princeton University will require that all faculty, staff, researchers, appointed visiting faculty and researchers, temporary employees, and independent contractors (i.e., individuals working alongside with or providing services to our students and employees) receive and provide proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or the World Health Organization. The requirement applies to employees and others routinely working on campus or in property occupied by the University and complements a requirement already in place for students.  All employees (defined as the groups listed above) who will be on campus this fall must receive the final dose of their chosen vaccine no later than August 1, 2021.

Employees who cannot receive the vaccine because of a disability/medical contraindication or sincerely-held religious belief may request an accommodation (e.g., an exemption) to this requirement.  Individuals who are granted accommodations will be required to comply with appropriate workplace restrictions, including the wearing of face coverings and social distancing indoors and participating in more frequent asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.

Vaccination Status Reporting and Accommodation Request Procedures

By July 1, 2021, all faculty, staff, researchers, appointed visiting faculty and researchers, temporary employees, and independent contractors routinely working on the Princeton campus or in property occupied by the University are required to do one of the following in VacStatus:

  • Submit their COVID-19 vaccination proof;
  • Report that they are not yet fully vaccinated, but intend to be by an upcoming date;
  • Apply for a medical or religious accommodation; or,
  • Report that they do not plan to be vaccinated, despite the University requirement.

Employees that have not received an accommodation must provide proof of having received their final dose of the vaccine (second dose for two-dose vaccine or one dose for single dose vaccine) by August 1.

Employees who are not vaccinated and do not qualify for an accommodation must consult with their manager and Human Resources or the Office of the Dean of the Faculty to determine if a period of leave or use of accrued paid time off may be applied. Working remotely is not an approved option under this policy.

More information and answers to frequently asked questions about vaccine requirements are available on the COVID Resources website.

As previously announced, all undergraduate and graduate students are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for the 2021-22 academic year.

Updated Guidelines for Summer

Last spring, few of us had ever heard the term ‘social distancing,’ and the idea that we would grab a face covering before heading out for an errand was hard to imagine.  These simple health protocols have kept us safe while we awaited the development and distribution of a vaccine and may still be required in certain situations.  We will continue to adjust our policies based on public health guidance and to update all of you as those policies change.

Social Distancing

Based on updated guidance from the CDC and NJ executive orders, employees who are fully vaccinated, and whose status has been verified in VacStatus, no longer need to maintain six feet of social distance on University property, indoors or outdoors. Those who are not fully vaccinated or do not have vaccination records verified in VacStatus must continue to maintain social distancing indoors.

Employees who are vaccinated no longer need to comply with the occupancy limits posted for COVID-19 mitigation. Furniture may be replaced in common spaces and, if desired, Plexiglas and other barriers may be removed.

Employees are expected to act honestly and ethically. The University will not routinely check whether individuals who are not practicing social distancing indoors are vaccinated except in response to credible complaints. However, the University retains the right to undertake periodic compliance reviews to protect the community, and any employee found to be falsely claiming to be vaccinated will be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

Face Coverings

As of June 3, 2021, the University updated its face coverings policy for all students, staff, faculty and visitors. Face coverings are no longer required outdoors. However, face coverings continue to be required indoors, regardless of vaccination status. We will revisit this policy after July 1, 2021, when we can determine the vaccination rate across our campus.

Exceptions to the indoor face covering policy, such as when an employee is alone in a reserved room or a student is alone in their living space on campus, are outlined on the COVID Resources website

Gatherings, Events, and Meetings

As of June 3, 2021, in-person gatherings on campus for staff, faculty and students may be approved within certain limits. Gatherings of more than 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors may be held in-person if approved by the Gatherings Review Team. Gatherings of 25 or fewer people indoors and 100 or fewer outdoors do not need approval from the Gatherings Review Team.  All University public health measures must be followed and the event should be scheduled through the EMS web app for reservable spaces.

For information about visitors attending gatherings on campus, consult the Visitor Policy.


Beginning July 1, 2021, employees who are routinely on campus and have not been verified as fully vaccinated in VacStatus will be required to be tested two times per week during the weeks they work on campus. Those whose VacStatus records indicate that they are fully vaccinated will continue to be tested once per week. We will continue to require weekly testing for vaccinated individuals until the data indicate that testing vaccinated individuals is no longer needed. We will continue to test individuals who are not fully vaccinated (i.e., those granted an accommodation) through the Fall semester. Testing frequency for all may change if we identify increasing risk of virus spread on our campus or in our community.

Daily Symptom Check

As a reminder, per current New Jersey executive orders, employees must continue to use the Daily Symptom Check before coming to campus, regardless of vaccination status.

Returning to Campus Prior to Fall Semester

Individuals who have been working remotely and are fully vaccinated, verified in VacStatus, may wish to return to their campus workplace. Please work with your manager to determine if that is allowed or encouraged. As noted in the recent letter from Lianne Sullivan-Crowley and Sanjeev Kulkarni, employees are still expected to return to work on campus by August 29, 2021.

Employees who are not currently in the asymptomatic testing program will need to be enrolled and will need to be tested once per week if they are fully vaccinated and twice per week if they are not vaccinated or do not have verified vaccination records in VacStatus. Managers will need to update the employee list in their Resumption plan to enroll their employees in the asymptomatic testing program.

Outlook for the Fall

Looking toward the fall, the University continues to plan for the resumption of in-person instruction and operations. Classes are expected to be taught in-person and the University anticipates concluding all remote work by Sunday, August 29. All activities will continue to follow then prevailing public health protocols, but our expectation is that all University facilities, including administrative and research spaces, will operate at full capacity. 

The University also expects the following will be permitted by August 29:

  • Classrooms and campus spaces may resume normal occupancy.
  • Research and teaching laboratories will operate at normal occupancy.
  • Campus housing may resume normal occupancy.
  • Dining halls and cafes may open with no limits on indoor dining.
  • Off-campus, student-run eating clubs may reopen.
  • Varsity and recreational sports resume within the parameters set by NCAA and the Ivy League.
  • In-person student activities may resume (though activities that involve singing or wind instruments may require mitigation measures).

Just as we couldn’t have imagined the year we have just completed, it is hard to anticipate what changes may lie ahead.  We will continue to work with all of you to meet those challenges, and will communicate with you about any policy changes related to the pandemic.  We are confident, however, that vaccines and other health protocols will allow us to come together on campus in support of our teaching and research. Thank you again for everything you have done—we are at this moment because of you and your hard work.