Welcome back to MIT

February 09, 2017

Dear students,

I hope you've had a relaxing snow day, and if you've read beyond the summary, thank you! As we look to a new semester, I want to pause to say thank you for making me feel at home here. You helped ensure my first semester at MIT was fun, challenging (in a good way), and productive.

I also think this is a good time to make sure you know what DSL and students accomplished together last term, and how our partnership makes me hopeful for even more progress in the spring. I've highlighted some examples of our work and priorities below. And, for those who want to learn more about where we've been and where we're heading, read on here.

Welcoming Campus for All
We aim to have a campus community that is diverse and welcoming for all, regardless of one's background, identity, or beliefs. To increase our knowledge, skills, and awareness, DSL has developed opportunities for community members to learn about their hidden biases. In response to the BSU/BGSA recommendations, I was honored to participate in Dr. Jamie Washington's diversity dialogue program for new students during Orientation. And we are joining with MIT faculty and staff to develop an anti-bias training curriculum, which we plan to pilot with DSL staff.

From the development of the Architectural Principles document in October, to the workshops that are shaping the renovation of New House, and design of a new undergraduate residence hall on Vassar Street—not to mention the plans to replace Eastgate as part of the Kendall Square initiative—we are working to renew our residential facilities.

Beyond these improvements, we are partnering with Information Systems & Technology to strengthen network access and speed in the dorms. Also, several dorms and community spaces will be enhanced over the summer to support New House residents' moves, and to improve the overall quality of life in our residence halls. Watch for more details on these initiatives soon.

Health and Wellbeing
Many students and community members have helped launch a campus dining review. This review includes both cook-for-yourself and dining dorms, retail outlets, FSILGs, and catering. Improving the accessibility and quality of food on campus is a top priority, and later this semester we will share recommendations to make the campus dining program better.

We have realigned staff to better support graduate students and their families, and students in emergencies. Naomi Carton, who for years has worked in housing and dining, will focus much of her time on programming and direct support for graduate residential communities. Additionally, DSL formed the Coordination Assistance and Response (CARE) Team, which helps arrange care for students and families during personal emergencies, such as an injury or serious illness while on campus.

Active Learning and Shared Governance
MIT's commitment to shared governance between students, faculty, and staff offers unique opportunities for learning by doing. This dynamic partnership between DSL, faculty-led committees—such as the Committee on Student Life and the Committee on Discipline—and student leadership of the FSILGs, DormCon, and the Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council has resulted in important policy reforms that benefit our students.

  • Enhancing the Good Samaritan Amnesty Policy;
  • Establishing a committee to develop guiding principles for funding student groups;
  • Reviewing our Saferide shuttle program for improvements;
  • Creating a sexual violence prevention certification program in the FSILG community; and
  • Developing a resident peer mentor (RPM) program, where upper-level peers assist first- and second-year students where they live.

Student input matters to me and DSL staff. You are always welcome to talk about the initiatives we're working on or anything that is on your mind at the DSL Deans' Office Hours every Friday, from 11AM—12PM, resuming for the semester on February 10.

Also, watch for information on the next edition of the Student Quality of Life Survey, which is a great opportunity to let MIT know what you think of your MIT experience across several dimensions.

Welcome back to your MIT home, and best wishes for a great semester!

Suzy M. Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life