MIT expands building access for the general public

Effective December 1, access to buildings including libraries, Lobby 7, and the Infinite Corridor will be restored

Provost Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 shared changes to building access policy in an email to the MIT community Nov. 29.

Barnhart wrote that building access for the general public will be expanded, with access to the libraries and “Main Group of campus buildings, including Lobby 7 and the Infinite Corridor” being restored.

Effective Thursday, Dec. 1, “many buildings” will be open to the public on weekdays; “other buildings” will be open to the public during stated public access hours; the turnstiles in Lobby 7 will be opened to enable easy access to the Infinite Corridor. The buildings in question are marked with orange and blue dots respectively on this map

MIT announced in August that restrictions on access to some campus buildings, instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic, would remain in place. Following backlash to the initial policy announcement, MIT Administration stated that they would proceed with the approach for the fall semester, but would “continue the conversation” for the spring semester “and beyond.”

Barnhart and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor sent students a survey Oct. 4 to “assess and calibrate the Institute’s approach to building access.” Responses were collected for ten days.

Barnhart wrote about the survey results in her Nov. 29 email, stating that “we learned that members of our community place different priorities on campus safety, ease of access, and a welcoming environment for visitors, and that any successful solution must balance all of these values.”

She included a link to the complete survey results as well. Of the 22,687 invited participants, 7044 (31%) responded. Included in the survey were some basic access statistics: questions like “In the past week, how many days were you on campus?” and “What times are you usually on campus?” 

Respondents were also asked about their feelings on various elements pertaining to campus access and could rate each aspect on a scale of 1 (not a priority) to 5 (essential). In particular, they were asked about the importance of various aspects of building policy — easy access to buildings or facilities of work and study, safety of buildings or facilities of work and study, a campus that feels welcoming to visitors, and easy access of buildings and facilities for personal visitors. The average ratings were 4.5, 4.2, 3.8, and 3.5, respectively.

Respondents were asked if they felt that they could arrange building access for their visitors with ease (rating ease from 1 to 5), to which they responded with an average of 4.5 for an alternative daytime hours approach.

Finally, they were asked whether they would prefer a pre-COVID conditions approach to the current (restricted access) approach, and whether they would prefer an alternative daytime hours approach to the current approach. 53% and 71% of respondents indicated strong agreement (rating of 4 or 5) for the two questions, respectively. 32% and 25% indicated strong disagreement (rating of 1 or 2).

The August announcement about continuing restrictions saw organized activity from students and alumni — prominent among them was Cambridge City Councillor Burhan Azeem ’19. Azeem tweeted about the decision to expand public access, writing “Over the last few months, I’ve been engaging with MIT about reopening their campus. Today, I’m excited to say main campus will fully reopen to the public on weekdays & the turnstiles will be fully removed! It’s not everything but it’s a huge step, thank you @MIT!”

Barnhart concluded the email by sharing that the Institute would launch a working group charged with assessing potential security enhancements at the Main Group and along the Infinite Corridor, also linking some additional details.