What you need to know for a great spring semester (for graduate on-campus residents and off-campus students who access MIT facilities)

February 24, 2021

tl;dr- Tried & true practices to fight COVID; Grad student life after quarantine; Mandatory testing & attesting; Vaccine update; Caring for your mind, hands & heart; Site 4 welcomes new residents; Food & dining options on campus; Important policies.

Dear students,

Over the past year, our community rose to the challenges posed by the pandemic and reaffirmed what’s best about MIT. In that time, our actions have been guided by facts and science to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Earlier this week, we made the decision to extend undergraduate Q-Week to ensure we had a solid testing baseline. We had an excellent response to this - over 99% of undergraduates followed through. We remain committed to doing everything we can to keep COVID-19’s impact on MIT's campus very low.

As I do each semester, I write to share important information, perspectives, and policy updates.

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Tried & True Practices

We know what strategies work in reducing the spread of COVID: be diligent about wearing well-fitting face-coverings (see these CDC guidelines for improving how your mask protects you), washing your hands regularly, maintaining physical distance from others, testing according to Covid Pass requirements, attesting as directed, staying in your social bubble, and being forthright about symptoms or contacts with people who have COVID.

Instances when on-campus residents or off-campus students are out of bounds or ignore policies and requirements will be addressed quickly by the Committee on Discipline’s expedited process, as was an off-campus party last week. By the same token, please report troubling concerns on campus (such as too many students crowding into a classroom or unsafe practices by campus employees) at https://hotline.mit.edu/. Your message will be routed quickly to the right people for their attention.

Testing, Attesting & Vaccines

Hopefully, you completed the mandatory quarantine. If not, watch this video for information on what follows a positive test or close contact report.

If you live on campus, test according to the instructions from Covid Pass and complete your attestation daily to maintain access to campus and your residence. The same goes for loved ones living with you. If you live off campus but access MIT facilities for academic or research purposes, test according to the instructions from Covid Pass and attest on the days when you will be working on campus.

Vaccines. As Dr. Cecilia Stuopis announced on Wednesday, February 17, Massachusetts has moved to a new phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That’s good news for the state, but it changes MIT’s plans. Please read this update from Mass.gov, follow local vaccine news through the City of Cambridge's website, and watch for additional information from MIT Medical.

Regardless of your vaccination status, please comply with MIT’s COVID precautions--face-covering, handwashing, physical distancing, testing as directed by Covid Pass, and attesting as needed--and become familiar with MIT COVID-time policies.

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Graduate Student Life

Embrace winter’s beauty. Staff from DSL and across MIT have partnered with students to expand outdoor campus programming. Beginning on March 1, on-campus residents may use outdoor furniture available in courtyards and outdoor heaters which are available at the front desk of their residence. Residents should follow the available guidance for using outdoor heaters and reach out to their house team with any questions. DAPER plans to offer outdoor games and activities as well.

Please follow occupancy and reservation guidelines as well as other COVID policies. Additionally, indoor touchdown spaces will again be open this spring.

Social gatherings, especially those that involve eating or drinking, are a leading cause of COVID outbreaks among students, which can lead to campus shut-downs. See the updated policy on parties and gatherings for more details.

Mind, Hand & Heart. Focusing on your mind, body, relationships, and purpose will enable you to do your best this term. Taking care of your mind and connecting your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors furthers your ability to reason and innovate, to be self-aware, and to be more caring with yourself and others. Caring for your body by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly will improve your mood and well-being. Nurturing healthy relationships promotes a sense of belonging and respect. And lastly, cultivating a sense of purpose and reflecting on what is meaningful will help you clarify your goals in life.

Exciting Changes to Housing

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we saw extraordinary changes to on-campus housing. The Site 4 house team welcomed its first residents and families to their new Kendall Square home in November! The transition team did a great job of preparing the community to move and build community among residents despite the pandemic. Site 4 is also welcoming about 180 undergraduates who will temporarily join the community for the spring semester. Around 1,300 graduate students are living on campus, which is about 49% of our typical occupancy.

Guests in graduate housing. We are reviewing changes to the guest policy that would allow grad student residents to designate up to two friends from other MIT residence halls to visit you in your room. We will update you when the review is complete. For now, please follow the current policy on guests. The policy for students with families is different, so please read the guest policy carefully.

Food & Dining on Campus

TechMart & retail dining. On March 1, Dunkin’ and TechMart at-cost grocery will re-open for business on weekdays in the Student Center (W20) for all on-campus residents. Delicious Mediterranean food is available at Pacific Street Grill (NW86) as well. People living on campus can also order food or groceries to their residence hall anytime.

Residence hall kitchens. Can you use a shared kitchen if your residence doesn’t have private kitchens in its units? Yes, with some guidelines. Occupancy limits and COVID basics like face-coverings, handwashing, and physical distancing still apply.

Be Active & Feel Better

As I mentioned above, if you live on campus or access campus through Covid Pass, you may use DAPER recreation facilities starting on March 1. Many DAPER indoor and outdoor facilities are open with reduced capacity and modified rules. You can read more details on their website.

Spring athletics, intramurals & club sports. The pandemic has been particularly hard on college athletics. Once again, as with many peer schools, we made the difficult decision to cancel varsity, club, and intramural sports for the spring. We are offering strength and conditioning opportunities for teams, and during the semester, the DAPER staff will review the status of club and intramural sports. We are weighing the potential for drop-in, casual play sessions or weekly leagues for students with access to DAPER, and always with COVID precautions taken into consideration.

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Thank You

There is a lot to digest here, but it’s information you need to know (including the policies below). We have learned that we cannot let our guard down, and we appreciate your efforts to work together to keep COVID at bay. Here’s to a great semester!

Best,
Suzy

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Understanding Key Policies

The Mind and Hand Book contains important information about policies intended to help you stay safe and healthy, including the following:

  1. MIT’s Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act statement - MIT’s policy, potential sanctions, and resources to prevent substance and alcohol abuse;
  2. The Good Samaritan Amnesty Policy and COVID Amnesty Policy - Seek help in a medical emergency involving alcohol, prohibited substances, or COVID contact tracing;
  3. The federal Title IX law and MIT's sexual misconduct policy and Title IX resources, which address sexual misconduct prevention and response;
  4. The Massachusetts state law on hazing and MIT's own anti-hazing rules, which contribute to a positive student life experience; and
  5. MIT Police's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report outlines important information about campus safety, crime prevention, and how MIT Police can support community members.