Important details about life on campus this spring

November 10, 2020

Dear first-years, sophomores, and juniors,

We are excited to welcome more of you back this spring--campus isn't the same without you! Hopefully, you read the recent message about the current, high-level plans for Spring 2021. We write to you now with more details so students who are invited back to campus can better weigh their options.

In that same spirit, we also want to invite you to a special virtual office hours this Friday, November 13, from 11 am to 12 pm. Staff from the Division of Student Life and the Office of the Vice Chancellor will be available to answer questions ahead of the Monday, November 16 deadline for your housing preferences (please see the latest information about submitting your preferences to Housing & Residential Services). Click this link to join the conversation this Friday from 11 am to 12 pm.

As it has been during the fall, campus life will be very different this spring. We all need to remain vigilant in our efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay given that cases are currently on the rise in Massachusetts, across the US, and around the world. Each of us must do our part by wearing a face covering, keeping six feet of distance from others, and maintaining a small, consistent group of friends to interact with. You must also follow MIT COVID policies, which are grounded in science and public health guidance, while also integrating the advice of student leaders, staff, and faculty so we can balance the wishes of on-campus residents for social connections with public health imperatives. In fact, these measures and restrictions will be more important than ever with three classes of undergraduates on campus this spring.

Here's what you need to know:

You will not have access to MIT facilities if you choose to live off campus. Only on-campus residents and graduate students with a valid COVID Pass can access Institute facilities including academic buildings, DAPER facilities, the Student Center, and campus grounds. For seniors, as Chancellor Barnhart said in her November 2 email, "We will make a decision by the end of the semester about whether seniors who choose to live nearby can have access to campus facilities in the same way that graduate students who live off campus do now." Read the email for more about the process for making that decision.

You must get tested as soon as you get to campus. Watch for more information about move-in and testing soon, but know that you must be tested on campus before getting the keys to your room.

You will quarantine for a week upon arrival. Quarantine Week (Q-Week) starts once you move into your room. All students must stay in their rooms except to use their assigned bathroom, get food, collect packages, or exercise outside. If you do venture out of your room, you must wear a face covering and stay six feet apart from others.

You are required to get tested twice per week and to attest to your health daily. To make it easier for you to keep up with twice-per-week testing, we now have two campus testing facilities—MIT Medical on the east side and Johnson Ice Rink on the west side, which we expect will be more hospitable when winter weather inevitably arrives. Also, you have to attest to your health each day using COVID Pass (iOS or Android) on the MIT Atlas platform. Attesting on your tablet or smartphone takes a few moments. If you don't keep up with testing and attesting, you will lose access to campus facilities, including your residence hall.

Classes, including those with an in-person component, will be entirely online for the first two weeks of the semester. Q-Week will take place during the first week of classes.

Don't host or attend parties or events on or off campus. No precautions can make a party or event safe from COVID-19 transmission—in fact, new research from MIT suggests that superspreader events (defined as one person infecting six people) are more common than thought and play a major role in perpetuating the pandemic. That's why on-campus parties and events are prohibited, and attending off-campus parties or events is also prohibited. This is especially important during case upticks like the one we are experiencing now, so we rely on you to take additional precautions and be extra careful at times like this.

As we stated unequivocally this fall, students who host or attend parties on or off campus will be subject to referral to the Committee on Discipline. Check out the events and parties policy for details.

Fully cooperate with contact tracing. If you hear from a contact tracer because you tested positive for COVID-19 or because you came into contact with someone who tested positive, please answer their questions accurately and fully. MIT's COVID-19 amnesty policy encourages students to come forward with information that can save lives and protect public health. Further, MIT Medical will NEVER report any information learned through contact tracing to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Neither you nor your peers will be subject to student disciplinary actions because of information you reveal to a contact tracer.

All students living on campus will be on a meal plan with a substantial subsidy. Much as we did during the fall, MIT is providing a special COVID subsidy that reduces the meal plan cost by more than 40%, from $3,160 to $1,900.

Meals will be served in your residence every day, even if you live in a cook-for-yourself community. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served in your residence hall on weekdays, and brunch and dinner will be served on weekends. As an alternative to your residence hall dining facility, you can get breakfast and lunch in the Student Center's Lobdell Dining Hall on weekdays.

Students may form pods of up to six students in their residence halls. Podmates are a tight-knit group that sticks together closely with each other, avoiding contact with other people and pods. Because you all take extra COVID precautions around others, you may congregate in an assigned lounge or in each others' rooms without face coverings or distancing requirements. Though the dates and deadlines will be updated for spring, the Fall 2020 pod policy page contains lots of valuable general information about pods and how they work. First-years, don't worry--you will have ample opportunity to form a pod after you arrive on campus. You will get more information about pods, including the application process, next month.

DAPER indoor and outdoor facilities will be open for recreation. The DAPER Recreation team has made important layout and occupancy changes in their facilities to limit the potential for virus transmission. If you can't make it to a DAPER facility, try out one of the many virtual classes and other activities on the Recreation website to keep your body moving. DAPER also launched a new dashboard that shows the number of users in particular indoor and outdoor exercise venues—check it out now to see how it works and bookmark it for future reference.

You may use designated spaces inside your residence hall so long as everyone follows face covering and distancing protocols, and the number of people in the space does not exceed the posted occupancy limit. Kitchens will remain closed, but students may use microwaves, refrigerators, and sinks, and may dispose of food waste in trash barrels. Touchdown spaces for quiet studying are available in the Main Block of campus buildings from 9 am to 10 pm, Monday through Friday for on-campus residents and anyone with a valid COVID Pass.

Some outdoor spaces are available for use by on-campus residents and community members with a valid COVID Pass. As with indoor spaces, the number of people in the space cannot exceed the posted occupancy limit, and everyone must wear a face covering and maintain six feet of distance from each other the entire time you are together.

As noted in Chancellor Barnhart's message from November 2, FSILGs will remain closed. And, there are still important limits on student groups this spring. Check out the COVID policies page for details.

Finally, we need you to know that MIT will continue to take swift disciplinary action in response to noncompliance with the Resident Campus Agreement through an expedited Committee on Discipline process for COVID-19 policy violations. As we stated above, students who do not follow MIT's COVID-19 policies may face disciplinary action including potential suspension, loss of housing, or loss of campus access.

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Our success this spring depends on every one of us!

We will apply what we learned this fall and plan to open the campus to you all this spring. But, COVID-19 remains a serious threat. If conditions worsen on campus, in the area, or across the state, we will adjust course to protect the public health. Make sure to visit MIT Now to stay current on COVID-related news.

If you reflect on this information and decide not to live on campus, you have until January 1, 2021, to cancel your assignment without a penalty. Whether you are on or off campus, you will be an integral part of the MIT community.

MIT students are used to confronting hard tests. With more of you on campus this spring, we will face a different kind of test. Working together, we believe we can keep ourselves and each other safe from COVID-19.

With best regards,

Cynthia Barnhart

Suzy M. Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life

Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education