Simmons pod program paused after pod ‘intermingling’ incidents

Decision to pause program ‘not meant as punishment’

Simmons Hall paused its residential pod program Oct. 6–13 after “two separate incidents involving the expansion and intermingling of separate Simmons pods,” the Simmons House Team and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson wrote in an email to Simmons residents.

The pod program allows groups of up to six students to interact with each other without face coverings or physical distancing in students’ dorm rooms, assigned pod lounges, and other designated spaces. Members of separate pods intermingling violated the agreement signed by pod members, which states that students must “exercise strict social distancing with those outside their pod.”

The Simmons House Team wrote in a follow-up email to residents Oct. 10 that they were also made aware that Simmons residents from multiple pods made plans “to travel and meet off campus” over the weekend, violating the pod program pause.

They wrote that “the decision to pause the Simmons pod program was based squarely on public health concerns and not meant as a punishment.” Multiple testing cycles would be necessary “to be confident that unsanctioned gatherings among students from different pods did not pose a risk to the Simmons community.”

Simmons Head of House Ellen Essigmann PhD ’80 wrote in an email to Simmons residents Oct. 11 that the Simmons House Team and Division of Student Life “do not support the request for a pod trip off campus this weekend” and that if the trip happens, “disciplinary follow-up may occur.”

Simmons Head of House John Essigmann PhD ’76 wrote in an email to The Tech that “it is very important for students to come forward” and report violations of MIT policy “when their health, the health of their neighbors and the ability of MIT to pursue its mission can be affected.”

He wrote that the Simmons House Team “reminded students of the agreement they signed at the outset of the semester in order to form and participate in a pod” and “enhanced the presence of our Compliance Resource Staff in the dorm” after the pod violation.

In the past week, MIT has reported four positive tests on the Institute’s COVID-19 testing dashboard.

Since MIT’s testing ramp-up late August, the Institute has had on average approximately seven positive COVID-19 tests per week.