What you need to know for a great spring semester (for undergraduate on-campus residents)

February 24, 2021

tl;dr- Tried & true practices to fight COVID; Form pods, get outside, exercise & connect with your house after Q-Week; Mandatory testing & attesting; Caring for your mind, hands & heart; New Vassar opened and BC transition; Food & dining update; 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 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.

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


What You Can Do Now That Q-Week is Over

As we announced yesterday, Q-Week is over unless you tested positive for COVID (watch this video for information on what follows a positive test or close contact report). Now that MIT Medical gave the thumbs-up, here are a few things you can start doing right away:

  1. Form pods. In the fall, 760 students formed 176 pods--groups of up to six students in the same residence who commit to keeping themselves and each other healthy. Even if you decide not to participate in the residence hall pod program, please enjoy the events put on by your House team (see #4 below).
  2. Enjoy our campus environs fully. You will be able to spend more time out of your room in the coming days, so please try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. Walk along the river, or connect with friends in Killian Court’s designated outdoor gathering areas or in a reservable West Campus space. Remember, however, that access to academic and research spaces and in-person learning starts on Monday, March 1.
  3. Exercise with DAPER, in person or virtually. Students permitted to access campus through COVID Pass may use DAPER indoor and outdoor facilities, or try one of their many online classes.
  4. Engage with your community. If you live on campus or in an FSILG pilot house, make the effort to join Zoom gatherings, movie nights, and other activities that can help strengthen your connections to others in your residence and across campus.

As a reminder, social gatherings, especially those that involve eating or drinking, are a leading cause of COVID outbreaks among students, which lead to campus shut-downs. Please follow public health guidelines and avoid social events or gatherings outside of your immediate social circle. The updated policy on parties and gatherings offers some suggestions for ways to stay connected.

Testing, Attesting & Vaccines

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. If you live off campus but access campus for academic or research purposes, test according to the instructions from COVID Pass and attest on the days when you will be working in MIT facilities.

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.

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. As of now, around 2,250 students are living in undergraduate halls, 45 are in three FSILG pilot houses, and 180 undergraduates are living in graduate residences.

The New Vassar residence’s house team and founders’ group worked on a roadmap for welcoming students to their new home. During the same period, Burton Conner’s transition team ably prepared the community for the building’s renewal, which is targeted for completion in fall 2022.

FSILG Pilot. DSL partnered with the Association of Independent Living Groups, FSILG alumni, and current FSILG leaders, which resulted in the partial reopening of three FSILGs in Cambridge and Boston with a goal of learning how to operate small living communities during COVID. FSILG residents will follow the same COVID policies and testing requirements as students living on campus.

Embrace Winter's Beauty

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. As the weather gets warmer (and the snow melts), these spaces will likely be used more readily. Please follow occupancy and reservation guidelines as well as other COVID policies. Additionally, indoor touchdown spaces will again be open this spring.

Food & Dining on Campus

Several students have shared their appreciation for the enhanced quality of food on campus. Now, all residence halls have in-house dining service except East Campus, where meals are served in Morss Hall of Walker Memorial (50). Additionally, if you are in a hurry, you may get lunch on the go in Lobdell Dining Hall in the Student Center (W20) every weekday, from 11 am to 2:30 pm, starting March 1 by pre-ordering with the Get App.

Undergrads living in Site 4 who have kitchens may cook their own meals or purchase a meal plan. If you have questions, read this Site 4 FAQ for more details. FSILG pilot house residents have in-house dining service.

TechMart & retail dining. On March 1, Dunkin’ and TechMart at-cost grocery will re-open for business on weekdays in the Student Center 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 & FSILG kitchens. Can you use them? Yes, with some guidelines. You may use the refrigerator and microwave, dispose of trash, and use the sink in residence hall and FSILG shared kitchens; stoves and ovens may not be used. Occupancy limits and COVID basics like well-fitting face-coverings, handwashing, and physical distancing still apply. Kitchens designated by each house may be reserved and used for special occasions. Please see the Campus Guide’s Living on Campus section for more details.

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.

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!


Suzy M. Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life


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.