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Editorial: Against informal preview hosting

Last week, the University announced that the duration of its annual program for prospective students, Princeton Preview, would be shortened to one day. Traditionally held over a span of multiple days, the changes came in response to links between the strain of meningitis present at Princeton and the recent death of a student at Drexel University.

In response to these changes, a group of undergraduates has organized an informal hosting system seeking to provide housing for prospective students who wish to extend their time at Princeton beyond the one day provided by an abbreviated Preview. As of April 2, 49 students had volunteered to host on a Princeton University Facebook group.

While the Board recognizes the good-faith intentions of these students, we strongly advise against this system of organized informal housing. The University’s decision to shorten Preview, made in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was undertaken in order to mitigate the possibility that prospective students may contract meningitis while here. Despite the vaccination campaigns at the University, it is apparent that meningitis remains a very real and acutely dangerous risk, as tragically evidenced by recent events. It is well documented that the adolescent, college-aged demographic is particularly susceptible to meningitis, and the Board believes that the University’s decision is appropriately prudent.

By offering to serve as informal hosts, students circumvent the University’s efforts to promote the health of both incoming students and the University community as a whole. In doing so, they subject their guests to an enhanced probability of contracting meningitis. Having a group of unimmunized students stay in residential buildings across campus in close contact with their hosts engenders a considerable and potentially fatal risk. Prospective students may not be fully informed or aware of the risk and severity of meningitis. Even if improbable, the consequences of contracting the disease are sufficiently grave that every possible precaution should be exercised in order to prevent the further spread of meningitis.

Adding to the Board’s concerns about informal hosting, the abridgement of Preview will likely mean that the Street will remain open on the nights surrounding the one-day program. It has traditionally been University custom to have the eating clubs closed while prospective students visit campus. Now that Preview does not extend overnight, it is probable that this will no longer be the case. Given that the mechanism of meningococcal transmission relies principally on contact with bacteria found in the nose or throat, attendance at the clubs will inevitably increase the chance that informally-hosted students engage in high-risk activities.

The Board recognizes the logistical and financial difficulties for students who are travelling from abroad, or who had already purchased tickets prior to the University’s announcement of the changes to Preview. We commend the Admission Office for its existing commitment to house preview students off-campus as needed, and we encourage them to implement measures for defraying the costs incurred by students who may have already made previous travel arrangements.

Ultimately, while the Board concedes that it is likely beyond the University’s capability to police whether students have decided to house Preview participants, we urge students to reconsider their willingness to serve as informal hosts in light of the broader and potentially dangerous implications of such a decision.

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