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THE WAY WE LIVE NOW: See silent, shuttered Princeton University on pause for Coronavirus

Dramatic photos set the scene at what would ordinarily be a lively springtime at Princeton University.

This is the way Ivy League students live now: just like the rest of us. Pestilence, the great equalizer.

Princeton, the nation’s fourth-oldest university, has coped with COVID-19 the way its younger cousins have, by shuttering, watching and waiting.

A stay-at-home order forced New Jerseyans indoors March 21. Student dorms, the shelter for the remaining few who can’t return to their permanent homes, are crowded only with echoes and shadows.

More than 5,000 undergraduate students left Princeton University for home when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered residents of his state to stay indoors. The result is an eerie stillness on a campus usually bursting at the seams with life. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


A lonely volleyball net sits on the Princeton campus on April 9, 2020. The few students remaining in the dormitories find most of campus life just out of reach, just like young people in America’s middle class. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)

The library is locked; so are the gyms. “Eating clubs,” Princeton’s 141-year-old answer to fraternities and sororities, serve only silence. Graduation will be an online ceremony this year.

Nassau Hall stands like a sentry over an empty Cannon Green, whose vibrant color almost no one sees. A lonely volleyball net will sit out the season, its sand undisturbed by footprints and strewn with unraked cherry blossom petals.

A rare sign of civilization: a frozen parade of pricey bicycles. Students left them behind, locked in place, helmets still hanging from handlebars.
Some want to ride but must stay indoors. Others left these artifacts behind in their rush home. They had planned to be here, not there.

Trains still come and go more than 30 times a day on a tiny branch that ducks away from the main tracks between Trenton and Newark. The famous Princeton “dinky” still makes its rounds.

Some commuters, with permission to move during quarantine, have entire rail cars to themselves.

The stranded can still walk to grocers and pharmacies. Many eateries have hung polite placards on their locked doors, or signs of defiant optimism. Panera is open for carry-out. Customers eat alone, even outdoors.

For mail carriers, it’s business as usual: letters for the ramen shop, the cupcake factory, the tandoori restaurant. Letters through the slot, letters on the floor.

And across Stockton Street, gothic towers and 5,000 missing undergrads.

Some 500 acres of promise, put on pause, just like the lives students used to live here. Just like all our lives.

Disrupted and disordered is the way we live now.

Nassau Hall was at one point the nation’s capitol, and was the largest stone building in the American colonies when it was constructed in 1756. Its sprawling lawns are getting a rest with no one to walk on them. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


Princeton University administrators rolled out tough measures for people remaining on campus through the coronavirus crisis, including a prohibition on visiting each other’s dorm rooms or be in communal bathrooms at the same time. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


Rows of bicycles are as long as ever on campus, but some students might not unlock their two-wheelers for months. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


Most of the college town’ eateries have been casualties to the pandemic. Even Olives, a caterer that served only takeout, ‘made the difficult decision to temporarily close.’ (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


One of the remaining signs of life in Princeton is the rail station, where more than 30 arrivals and departures every day are still part of the New York–Trenton commuter corridor. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


Postal carriers, famous for not letting adverse conditions stop them, are still delivering mail in Princeton– but much of it piles up inside the doors of shuttered businesses. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


On Nassau Street at this elite Ivy League university, Panera Bread remains open to carry-out customers. University regulations prohibit eating within six feet of another person (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


The famed Whig and Cleo halls, finished in 1838, were built for rival debating societies whose founders included James Madison and Aaron Burr. With the campus on hiatus, no one is debating this spring. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


Global COVID-19 fear has erased much of what’s ordinary and comfortable about living in the U.S. For students at Princeton, it was strolling along elm-lined streets with plans to make the world their oyster. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


The area outside the Witherspoon Grill sits empty amid the coronavirus outbreak on April 9, 2020. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


A sign states that “All Princeton University Library services have moved online until Monday, April 6, at the earliest.” Photo talen April 9. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)






A business remaining open for takeout reminds customers to stay 6 feet apart on April 9, 2020. (Photo: M. DiPaola / Zenger)


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