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Princeton cancels overnight stays for Preview weekend in light of meningitis-related death

Students who fly from far away will be put in hotels the night before Preview

Princeton Preview will be shortened this year for the Class of 2018 and will no longer include an overnight component in light of the recent death of a student at Drexel University that was caused by meningitis and linked to contact with Princeton students.

The University will continue to fly students to campus who require financial assistance, putting students up overnight in hotels in Newark or Philadelphia if necessary before Preview starts. Those students will then fly back home the night Preview ends, Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye explained.

In addition, admitted students who choose to matriculate will be vaccinated upon their arrival at the University, starting in the summer.

The announcement was made in an email to all undergraduate students on Thursday evening.

“Because the University has been in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the meningitis outbreak we’ve had, the University has taken efforts to vaccinate our students, but since there was a case where a student became fatally ill, that caused us to reconsider the Princeton Preview program,” Rapelye said in an interview.

Last year, over 2,000 admitted students attended Princeton Preview. At the time, two cases of meningitis had been reported, and Preview occurred as scheduled.

Over 20,000 alumni are expected to come to campus in late May for Reunions. It remains unclear whether any changes will be made to Reunions programming.

Preview usually takes place over two separate weekends and serves as an introduction to the University for admitted students.

Preview will now take place on Thursday, April 10, and Monday, April 28. It will be a one-day program and will no longer have an overnight component, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 7 p.m. Rapelye said.

“We’re doing this in an abundance of caution to limit the social gatherings on campus where there could be additional risk,” Rapelye said.

The University released admission decisions on Thursday for the Class of 2018. In a press release posted in the early afternoon, the University said it had admitted 7.28 percent of applicants, its most selective class in history.

The letter being sent out to admitted students will announce the University’s adjustment to Preview and also states the University’s intention to vaccinate all incoming freshmen upon their arrival at Princeton.

“The CDC has approved the use of the vaccine for incoming freshmen,” Rapelye said.

Students will be vaccinated when they get to campus, whether that be in the summer for athletic programs or right before the start of the term, Rapelye explained.

The University has already started planning for the revised and condensed Preview, folding the programming from what is usually the second day into just Thursday and Monday, respectively. Rapelye said this will require combining many events.

When asked about how the press surrounding Princeton’s meningitis outbreak and the revised Preview will affect yield this year, Rapelye said it will be difficult to predict.

“We are hopeful that students and families will understand that it is safe to be on this campus, that it is safe to sit next to someone in class, that this is not transmitted through the shaking of hands,” Rapelye said. “The risky behavior comes in social settings —
that’s what we’re trying to reduce in this situation.”

Rapelye indicated that the University has been discussing this decision for just over a week and that the decision was made with the consultation of many community members and the approval of the CDC.

This is an unprecedented occurrence that Rapelye hopes will not happen in subsequent years.

“For this year, and because of what happened recently, we thought it only prudent to make this decision while preserving what’s good about the program,” Rapelye said. “My hope is that our current students will do everything they can to help us put Princeton in the very best light.”

The schedule for Preview is still in progress. Rapelye said the University will be reaching out to student leaders involved in planning Preview to hear student feedback on which parts of Preview are most essential. Rapelye acknowledges that tough decisions will have to be made in deciding which programming to cut.

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