MIT invites only seniors back to campus for Fall 2020

Only students living on campus will have access to MIT facilities

Seniors will be the only undergraduate students invited back to campus for the fall, which will operate under an early start and with a modified calendar, according to an FAQ posted to MIT’s COVID-19 site.

Kimberly Allen, director of media relations and deputy director at the MIT News Office, wrote in an email to The Tech that “MIT expects to release its announcement and full details about fall decisions later this morning” with an “email to all students.”

The FAQ states that only students who are “invited or approved” to come and live on campus will have access to MIT facilities. Seniors who choose to live off campus will not be granted access to campus, in-person instruction, or on-campus activities.

There will be a process for non-seniors to “request special consideration for housing” on a case-by-case basis through the Student Housing Assistance Review Process (SHARP). Criteria guiding these considerations includes whether students can travel home and whether students’ homes are unsafe or unfit for remote learning.

According to the FAQ, seniors were prioritized for the fall because “they have the least amount of time” to satisfy degree requirements and because campus access is important for their programs such as capstone subjects, research, and theses. 

MIT intends to open campus for first years, sophomores, and juniors in Spring 2021. Seniors may also be invited if “public health conditions change fundamentally.” 

“As a matter of equity, we want to enable every student to spend at least one term on campus,” the FAQ said. 

The fall term will begin Sept. 1, followed by fourteen weeks of instruction. The first week of classes will be fully remote, and selected in-person classes will begin on-campus instruction Sept. 8. A full schedule of courses indicating which will be online and which will have in-person elements will be available July 17.

Thanksgiving break will take place Nov. 21–29. Undergraduates living on campus “will be expected to depart for the remainder of the semester the weekend before Thanksgiving,” after which all classes will be conducted remotely until Dec. 9. A five-day period of remote final exams will take place Dec. 14–18.

Seniors will be provided information “later in July” about the housing process, the FAQ writes. Additionally, once the fall semester ends, students who cannot leave campus may submit requests to SHARP for emergency housing.

All undergraduates on campus will live in their own room, though they will be charged the double- rather than single-room rate. They will also be required to purchase a 14-meal-per-week meal plan (subsidized to be $1,900), and dormitory kitchens, including those in cook-for-yourself communities, will “remain closed to everyday use” but can be reserved for special circumstances after required food safety and physical distancing training. 

All fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups (FSILGs) will be closed in the fall, but “MIT will work with FSILG alumni to subsidize costs for house operations.” FSILG leaders are planning for remote recruitment and future in-person programs, the document writes.

In addition, all members of the MIT community will be required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces and use a daily health monitoring app provided by MIT. There will be limited access to buildings, and returning students will be required to take two tests for COVID-19, separated by a one-week self-quarantine period.

Both an on-campus residence hall and “distributed locations in some halls” will be made available for students who have tested positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate. MIT Medical will also conduct contact tracing.

“Tuition will remain at 2020 levels for all students, and financial aid will be increased significantly,” according to the document. Details on tuition and financial aid are still lacking, with the corresponding section of the FAQ only containing the phrase “to come.”

The Academic Policies and Regulations Team (APART) expects to announce the fall grading system the week of July 13. The team is “currently inviting feedback” from the MIT community.

First years must indicate whether they choose to defer enrollment for the 2020–21 academic year by July 27. Upper-level students who choose to take a leave of absence will not be “guaranteed on-campus housing upon return.”

The Office of the First Year is planning a virtual orientation for incoming first years, who have “already been paired with orientation leaders.” The graduate student orientation team is also working on “virtualized programming” for new graduate students.

Student organizations will not be permitted to use their office spaces for meetings or to hold music, dance, or theatrical events. The FAQ also states that residence halls, FSILGs, and student groups cannot hold events on campus or in FSILGs.

Fall varsity athletics will be canceled and physical education requirements, such as the swim test, will be offered in “live and recorded online options.”

External visitors “except those essential for MIT to conduct critical research and education activities” will not be permitted on campus in the fall.

Reif wrote in an email to the MIT community June 17 that the school year would have a two-semester structure, and the proportion of undergraduates on campus during the fall term would be “conceivably as high as 60 percent, but likely much lower.” Classes that could be taught “effectively” online would be virtual.

Team 2020, the group of MIT administrators charged with making recommendations about the fall semester, was advised by the Undergraduate Association Committee on COVID-19, heads of house, and the APART. Team 2020 also gathered input from the MIT community through charrettes, surveys, and feedback forms.

The 2021 Class Council wrote a letter petitioning for seniors to be granted access to campus for the entirety of the upcoming school year. The petition has been signed by over 400 students and alumni.

Other universities have announced decisions for the fall as well. Boston University, Northeastern, and Tufts will allow all students to choose between returning to campus, learning remotely, and deferring enrollment. The three schools will have both in-person and remote instruction and implement campus safety guidelines such as testing and physical distancing.

Several universities have invited only a portion of students back to campus. Harvard will allow first years to live in dorms in the fall, as well as sophomores, juniors, and seniors who receive approval, with a maximum threshold of 40% of students in on-campus housing. All Harvard classes will be taught virtually.

Like MIT, Yale will offer most classes remotely, with the exception of courses requiring an in-person component which will be conducted under physical distancing guidelines. Yale will invite first years, juniors, and seniors on campus in the fall and sophomores, juniors and seniors in the spring. Both Harvard and Yale will not reduce tuition and will implement normal letter grades.

Update 7/7/2020: The article was updated to reflect that an email notifying all students of MIT's decision will be sent.