International student remote appointment guidelines released

International student leaders expressed concern that new criteria were sent to individual departments rather than entire student body

MIT has published guidance for students seeking to hold remote appointments, including UROP, research assistant, and teaching assistant positions, from foreign countries during the summer and fall term on the Team 2020 website. The guidance describes the eligibility requirements and application process for holding remote appointments from outside the U.S.

In addition to good academic standing, secure funding, and the permission of the student's supervisor, the eligibility criteria require that  “any continuing student must have returned to their home country prior to May 21, 2020.” While the “option to be on a remote appointment from outside the U.S. is not available to students who choose to leave the U.S. after May 21, 2020,” the guidance writes that “requests for exceptions will be reviewed if there are special circumstances that necessitated travel after this date.” The criteria were sent to departments in May.

After several departments received emails with the criteria, international student leaders wrote an email addressed to Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz and Director of the International Students Office (ISO) David Elwell, expressing concerns about the announced eligibility criteria for remote appointments. The email also requested that the entire student body be informed of the policies immediately and that a meeting with administration be scheduled to discuss the policies.

Philipp Simons G, Jonas Lehmann G, Agni Orfanoudaki G, and Alvaro-Miguel Fernandez Galiana G, international student leaders, wrote in an email to The Tech that they met with “Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz, the head of the international students office, David Elwell, and other members of the administration,” who were “very understanding of our concerns.”

The student leaders wrote that administrators “worked closely with us in informing the international student population at MIT” and “expressed a genuine desire to facilitate remote appointments and regretted the prohibitive language in the original guidelines.”

Waitz wrote in an email to The Tech that in regards to the perceived lack of communication between administration and the student body with respect to eligibility criteria for remote appointments, administration originally communicated directly to departments because they “did not want to cause students any unnecessary stress” since it is expected that “most appointments will be approved without changes and many others will be approved with modifications.” 

Waitz also wrote that a “more targeted communications approach” was selected since “departments knew best who had left the U.S. and could reach out to them directly.”

The “top priority” was to “find a way to support students in these situations and mitigate any financial or wellbeing challenges they may be facing,” Waitz wrote.

Waitz wrote in an email responding to the concerns of international student leaders that administration hopes to resolve issues “on a case-by-case basis” but that the team of representatives from several MIT offices never “had the kind of volume we have now that many students — both international and U.S. citizens — are seeking to work and learn from abroad.”

Waitz wrote that “in the four weeks since the guidelines were released, the review group has received over 300 intake forms on behalf of students seeking to conduct their appointments from outside the U.S.” and that of the “300+ student requests we’ve received, the vast majority are for international graduate students.”