Update to graduate students [Posted to MIT Covid-19 website]

March 09, 2020

Dear Graduate Students,

In light of the Institute-wide response to Covid-19 announced by President Reif on March 5, we are providing ongoing updates to keep you informed of MIT’s rapidly evolving approaches to protecting our community, and how they might impact student life and research.

Please keep reading for today’s updates, and watch for additional updates regularly.

While there is still no specific identified risk to the MIT community, the Institute is closely monitoring the global spread of Covid-19 and is undertaking a community-wide effort from now until May 15 to ensure continuity in the event of disruptions.

Our utmost priority is to do all we can to be there for you and our undergraduates, faculty, staff, and post-docs.

Thanks for your patience and cooperation as we work to ensure the health and safety of the MIT community.

Sincerely,

Office of the Chancellor


Academics

Classes of 150 or more suspended as of Tuesday, March 10

Motivated by advice from public health experts and out of an abundance of caution to reduce the transmission of disease where there are larger groups, by Tuesday, we will no longer host any lectures in which 150 or more students assemble in a single classroom. Based upon our interactions with the teaching teams, most of the larger classes are already prepared to replace their lectures with videos; they are also all planning and preparing to replace other elements of their classes by remote teaching options if needed.

Midterm examinations

As of now, midterm examinations will proceed as scheduled, but we will run them in several rooms so the number of students per room goes well below 150. The Registrar’s Office is working on room scheduling strategies to best accommodate that approach.

Preparing for remote and online teaching

A working group led by Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education Ian A. Waitz is aggressively developing plans to enable as much educational continuity as feasible in situations where students, faculty, and staff may not be able to be on campus for a brief or extended period of time.

Teaching responsibilities

We are encouraging all faculty members to be flexible during these uncertain times. If there are any responsibilities related to your research, teaching, or academics that you feel uncomfortable continuing in light of Covid-19 concerns, please first work with your advisor, your graduate officer, or GradSupport. If you feel they are not appropriately addressing your concerns, then please contact the Office of Graduate Education.

If you feel you are facing an imminent risk to your health or believe you could impact the health of others, please consult with the lead instructor immediately. Contact your program’s graduate officer or GradSupport if you need guidance. Otherwise, we encourage you to work with your teaching team on devising and testing remote-learning solutions now.

Expect further updates on these developments later this week.

Travel

MIT-sponsored domestic travel (for conferences, academic events)

  • Students planning MIT-sponsored travel beyond a 100-mile radius from Cambridge must seek review and receive approval from the Institute’s High-Risk Travel Committee and, post-approval, must register their trip in the confidential MIT travel registry.
  • As you plan, we strongly encourage you to err on the side of caution and anticipate and plan for last-minute changes and cancellations. Please also be aware that your destination may become a high-risk area by the time of your return, and there is a chance that you could be asked to self-quarantine upon your return.
  • Individuals wishing to travel should complete the domestic high-risk travel application as soon as possible; the Committee will make every effort to review completed applications in a timely fashion. Questions can be emailed to high-risk-travel-comm@mit.edu.
     

Personal domestic travel

Students planning personal travel beyond a 100-mile radius from Cambridge are encouraged to register their trip in the confidential MIT travel registry. As you plan, we strongly encourage you to err on the side of caution and anticipate last-minute changes and cancellations. Please also be aware that your destination may become a high-risk area by the time of your return, and there is a chance that you could be asked to self-quarantine upon your return.

International travel

As President Reif wrote on March 5, effective immediately – and in accordance with new advice from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health – MIT has suspended all international travel on MIT business or with MIT programs, for all faculty, students, postdocs and staff. This includes any travel associated with one’s scholarly activities as an MIT employee, even travel funded by a government grant, foundation, company or other university. Rare exceptions will be considered; those who feel they have a compelling need to travel internationally may apply in writing to the provost and the chancellor at COVIDtravel@mit.edu.

MIT strongly discourages personal travel to international locations by any MIT community member. Should a student travel to any nation where the CDC reports “widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission” of Covid-19, they will be required to complete a two-week self-quarantine off campus. Further, as new outbreaks occur and government travel restrictions shift, be aware that, if you choose to travel outside the United States, you may encounter difficulties in returning.

Travel related to jobs/academic positions

Until May 15, students are strongly encouraged to ask prospective employers if virtual meetings and interviews are possible, especially if the location is within a high-infection area. The Career Advising and Professional Development office can assist you if needed.

Travel abroad through MISTI, D-Lab, PKG Center

Students currently abroad
Students who are currently abroad through MISTI (including for academic study abroad) are not required to return at this time. However, students who choose to stay should immediately begin making a plan for rapidly-changing conditions (e.g., possible outbreak and/or closure of host institution). Students may choose to withdraw from the program and return home at any time as the situation evolves. Students choosing this option should inform program staff as soon as possible so that they may assist with issues regarding academic continuity and logistics.

Students planning to travel this summer
The new policies and guidelines concerning international travel are in effect through May 15. Given the fluidity of the situation, MISTI, D-Lab and the PKG Center have not cancelled summer programs as of today and are continuing to work with students to secure placements beginning after May 15. Students may choose to remain in the program(s), or they may withdraw from the program(s) without penalty at any time.

Programs will continue to monitor developments and any changes to MIT's policies and advise students accordingly. Updates on how Covid-19 might affect these programs can be found here.

Lab+Department Updates

All labs are open and operational as usual. If you have health-related concerns about participating in research-group work of any kind, please share them with your supervisor. All MIT faculty and department leadership have been asked to take these types of concerns seriously and allow flexibility. Contact your program’s graduate officer or GradSupport if you need guidance.

As part of MIT’s ongoing Covid-19 preparedness efforts, working groups on academic and research continuity are identifying ways to protect critical research in the event of a brief or extended disruption to normal operations, and are evaluating how graduate student research would be impacted.

Events

To help clarify the recommendations about events outlined in the March 5 memo, the MIT Events Office has developed an approach to help evaluate any upcoming events and decide whether to hold them.

Events affiliated with K-12 populations
All MIT-sponsored / affiliated K-12 activities, whether or not they are related to a specific academic program, either on or off campus, must be canceled, virtualized, or rescheduled.

Approved events under 150 attendees
All events that are still taking place should have ticketing or counting systems to track attendance, inclusive of everyone present at the event. There will be no exceptions for late arrivals or exceeding the 150-attendee maximum. All event organizers should be proactively informed of hygiene best-practices. Food should not be left out for the community afterwards. The MIT Facilities staff has been alerted to these policies.

Ticketing Systems
AdMIT One: A centralized box office service for the MIT community. They work closely with student groups, MIT departments, and external organizations to ensure that each event is as successful as possible. EventBrite: A global platform for live experiences that allows anyone to create, share, find and attend events that fuel their passions and enrich their lives.

Stipends+Funding

We want to assure gradate students that in the advent of a major disruption to campus, you will continue to be paid (as TAs, RAs, etc.).

Self-Care

Sleep and eat well

Be sure to get enough sleep and eat a healthy balanced diet (with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables).

Practice good hygiene

  • Get a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one yet! To make an appointment, call MIT Medical’s Primary Care Service at 617-258-9355 in Cambridge, or 781-981-7080 in Lexington.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay in your residence if you are feeling sick.
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