Vice President for Human Resources’ Message to Staff Regarding the 2021-2022 Academic Year

March 11, 2021

On March 11, Vice President for Human Resources Lianne Sullivan-Crowley emailed all staff members the following: 

A year ago, in the first of many pandemic-related memos, I wrote, “If we have each other’s backs—and we do!—we will meet this unprecedented challenge.” Although the struggle to contain the coronavirus has been longer and harder than many of us foresaw, you have been steadfast in your commitment to each other’s wellbeing, as well as in your dedication to Princeton’s mission.

As a result of your vigilance, resilience, and adaptability, we have successfully minimized the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus while ensuring that our core work continues. Students are taking classes, faculty are conducting research, and staff are keeping the administrative and operational wheels of Princeton turning smoothly. Thank you for all you have done to ensure that the past year, for all its trials and tribulations, was one of forward movement!

As we look to the future—cheered by hints of spring—there is every reason to believe that this progress will accelerate, thanks to the efficacy of multiple vaccines, now being administered across our country at an average rate of 2.1 million doses a day. Coupled with other protective measures, mass vaccination will allow us to operate on a much more normal footing in the coming academic year. Our goal, as set forth in today’s memo from Provost Debbie Prentice and Executive Vice President Treby Williams, is to resume “a fully in-person residential program” of teaching, research, and extra- and co-curricular activities in the fall.

To this end, all employees should anticipate returning to their University worksites by no later than the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, which formally begins on August 29, unless otherwise authorized to work remotely beyond August 29 pursuant to required accommodations or other circumstances.

In practical terms, it will take extensive planning—and the prioritization of operations directly related to teaching and research— if we are to move forward, and even then, as the provost and executive vice president note, there is no “guarantee that we will be able to return to full, pre-pandemic operations across the University in the summer or fall.” In all likelihood, some public health restrictions will remain in place, especially this summer, when most programs will be conducted remotely. Until advised otherwise, University-sponsored travel and in-person, on-campus events, as well as any scheduling or planning associated with them, are prohibited.

Finally, we expect that every member of our University community, whether vaccinated or not, will continue to respect all health and safety protocols that may remain in force on the recommendation of state and federal authorities. While we anticipate that many of these protocols will be relaxed before the fall semester, the fluid nature of the pandemic could well result in the continuation of certain workplace requirements even when everyone returns.

Returning staff should be prepared to come back on a rolling basis, as determined by operational progress and need, by the beginning of the fall semester, if not before, given the arrival of students. As resumption of workplace activity plans are readied, managers will provide you with the date of your return, among other specifics. We encourage managers, whenever possible, to provide you at least four weeks’ notice to support a smooth transition from home to office.

Some staff have been working on campus or at other University worksites throughout the pandemic, and to you I would like to extend a special thank you. It will be good to be together again!

I expect you have many questions, and as we know more, we will make every effort to answer them. In the coming months, my colleagues in HR, Environmental Health and Safety, University Health Services, and other offices that have shaped our response to the pandemic will provide you with the guidance and resources needed to ensure that the fall semester is a safe and productive one for all. I also encourage you to visit Princeton’s COVID Resources webpage and HR’s COVID-19 Information & Resources for Staff. Questions may also be directed to your manager or your senior HR manager.

Please continue to take good care of yourselves and one another while preparing to take part in a campus-centered academic year. I look forward to the joy of reuniting and to thanking many of you in person for your exceptional contributions.