DSL releases Fall 2020 on-campus COVID-19 policies
Undergraduate residential pods to be implemented
The Division of Student Life (DSL) released Fall 2020 COVID-19 policies for on-campus undergraduate and graduate students July 24.
The policies write that “an undergraduate residential pod program is in development in cooperation with student leaders” in the Undergraduate Association (UA) and Dormitory Council. An FAQ on the DSL website writes that pods will allow groups of up to six students in the same residence hall “to socialize in certain settings that do not require 6 feet physical distancing” or face coverings.
Undergraduate and graduate residence halls will not allow daytime and overnight visitors from other residence halls or outside MIT. Fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups (FSILGs) will be closed in the fall and will not allow visitors, the policies write.
However, graduate students may request guest exceptions for “pre-approved friends or family members who are helping residents move to an off-campus location” or childcare and healthcare” providers who come to “Eastgate or Westgate apartments during working hours.”
Students may enter their residence hall or other campus buildings by tapping their MIT ID card, and they are responsible for ensuring visitors do not follow them into these buildings. Students are required to have their ID with them when leaving their residence hall. ID sharing is prohibited.
Students are required to keep their residential space clean and practice hygiene, including frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.
Social events and parties in residence halls and FSILGs are prohibited.
Students may only dine in their residence hall for dinner and brunch and the Stratton Student Center for breakfast and lunch, according to the Student and Resident Campus Agreement.
Floor kitchens in undergraduate residence halls are closed. Residents may request permission to use a country kitchen for special events, the COVID-19 policies write.
Floor kitchens in graduate residence halls will be “restricted to posted capacities” and “may only be used by those students who do not have their own in-unit kitchens.”
Students must clean the kitchens after use.
Groups of up to six students may gather in “open indoor common spaces” such as residence hall lounges while following physical distancing guidelines.
Students may also reserve “enclosed common spaces,” defined as common spaces with a door. In undergraduate residence halls, enclosed common spaces may only be used by individual pods. In graduate residence halls, enclosed common spaces may be used by groups of up to six students. Residents must clean common spaces after use.
Face coverings are required in common areas, in public spaces on campus, and around other people. Residence halls will provide students with face coverings upon check-in. Students unable to wear a face covering due to a health condition may request an accommodation through the Disability and Access Services Office.
Access to some campus buildings will be limited “via designated entrances and exits, scanning of the MIT ID at designated access points, and signing in and out when reporting to or leaving campus buildings.” Students are encouraged to use stairs instead of elevators whenever possible.
Students may socialize in outdoor spaces on campus, such as residence hall courtyards, while following physical distancing guidelines.
Playgrounds in graduate residential communities will be open to members of the residential community. Physical distancing practices will be required for all playground visitors.
Students are required to maintain six feet of physical distancing when using laundry rooms.
Students who will live on campus Fall 2020 were required to complete an online education module about COVID-19.
Upon returning to campus, students will be tested twice for COVID-19 by MIT Medical. Students will self-quarantine until a second test, taken a week after the first, comes back negative, the policies write.
Throughout the fall, students will be required to complete a daily “health attestation” and health screening questionnaire through the COVID Pass app to confirm that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms, have not tested positive for COVID-19, and have not recently been in close contact with an infected person.
Students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or come into close contact with an infected person are required to contact MIT Medical immediately and “await further instructions.”
MIT may perform health monitoring of students, including temperature checks, “if MIT determines that such measures are prudent to maintain a safe campus environment.” Testing results may be shared with “certain MIT employees or city/state public-health officials with a legitimate need to know this information.”
Students will also be required to receive the seasonal flu vaccine from MIT Medical when it becomes available.
MIT has suspended Institute-sponsored travel and strongly discourages personal travel for community members.
However, “graduate students may request a waiver for essential domestic travel from the High-Risk Travel Committee.
“Students living on campus are encouraged to stay in the immediate Boston and Cambridge area,” the policies write. If an undergraduate or graduate student leaves New England, they will be required to take two COVID-19 tests at MIT Medical within seven days and self-quarantine for seven days upon return.
The UA Committee on COVID-19 released a Guest and Visible ID Policies Report early July, before DSL finalized its fall policies.
The report “strongly” recommended that MIT allow undergraduates to have daytime and overnight guests in residence halls “to mitigate the negative mental health consequences of social isolation.” A relaxed guest policy would also promote in-person peer collaboration on academic assignments. The report cited that 13.6% of student respondents to a June UA survey indicated that no visitors should be allowed in on-campus housing.
The report also wrote that to mitigate public health risks, MIT could require guests to be asymptomatic, pass their daily health attestation, and test negative for COVID-19. Despite the UA recommendations, MIT’s finalized policies do not allow undergraduates to have guests.
The report also “strongly” recommended that students not be required to wear MIT IDs visibly while in residence halls. Visible ID policies are “redundant given existing security measures” and “may disproportionately harm minority students, particularly Black students” due to racial profiling by security staff or other community members, the report wrote. MIT’s finalized policies do not include visible ID policies in residence halls.
The UA Committee on COVID-19 and the House Teams of Baker, Maseeh, and McCormick also proposed that MIT “pilot” pods and new common space policies on the undergraduates living in these three dorms over the summer.
The proposal wrote that Heads of House and Graduate Resident Advisors have pointed out that social isolation has negatively affected the mental health of students living in the dorms. Summer residents felt “isolated and suffocated” and found it difficult to connect with their peers “due to the extent of the restrictions on gatherings and the use of common spaces,” the proposal wrote.
The proposal recommended the reopening of outdoor spaces in residence halls, residential lounges, common study spaces, and smaller common rooms such as music or craft rooms, with physical distancing and masks required. The proposal wrote that nearly 97% of student respondents to the UA survey favored reopening common spaces.
The proposal also recommended the formation of “pods” of about four students in the same dorm, citing that over 80% of student respondents indicated that they would like MIT to implement pods.
The proposal wrote that pods would improve student mental health, allow more efficient testing and contact tracing, and improve student compliance with MIT policies. The proposal recommended that each pod should have access to a permanent “pod lounge”: a triple or quad room where pod members can “relax social distancing.”
Undergraduate residence hall building assignments and move-in times were released July 30 in an email from HRS Director of House Operations Rich Hilton. Students may cancel their housing assignment before Aug. 28 without penalty. Move-in will take place Aug. 29-30.
Student belongings stored by Piece by Piece Movers will be transported to students’ new room assignments upon their arrival, Hilton wrote. Students may also work with their House Team to retrieve belongings from in-house storage or a house-sponsored PODS container.
Undergraduates are required to sign a Student and Resident Campus Agreement before arriving on campus. Graduate students who currently live on campus must sign the agreement before registering for classes.
The agreement requires students to affirm that they will follow MIT’s COVID-19 policies, “abide by any federal, state, and local public health guidelines,” and “commit to doing [their] part to reduce the spread of infection.” Students should also update their emergency contact information and ensure that they are registered for MIT Alert notifications, the policies write.
Failure to comply with MIT’s COVID-19 policies “may result in a referral to the Committee on Discipline” or “immediate removal from MIT housing.”
Undergraduates living on campus this fall are also required to complete a “non-binding” Student Departure Plan by Aug. 15 to leave campus quickly in case “circumstances require the emergency closure of MIT’s campus,” Hilton wrote.
The agreement writes that students are “responsible for preparing for travel and housing arrangements” in the event of a COVID-19 campus shutdown. However, “limited need-based emergency assistance funds will be available.”
All classes will be conducted virtually after Thanksgiving. However, students who are unable to travel home by Nov. 22 “will be able to apply to stay on campus for the remainder of the semester,” Hilton wrote.
Only undergraduates who live on-campus will have access to campus facilities and in-person instruction, President L. Rafael Reif announced to the MIT community July 7. However, graduate students who live off-campus will have access to campus facilities.
A July 9 petition to allow off-campus undergraduate seniors who signed leases prior to Reif’s announcement to access campus gained over 450 signatures from students, faculty, and alumni. The petition also requests financial and legal support from MIT for seniors who break their lease to live on-campus.
However, MIT has not changed its policy. The DSL website writes that seniors who have already signed a lease to live off-campus but now wish to live on-campus can sublet, assign, or terminate their lease. Students can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Undergraduates can send questions to email@example.com.