Clothing-optionality moratorium instituted in all residence halls

Committee created to address clothing-optionality practices

A moratorium on clothing-optionality has been put in place in all residence halls. The moratorium will be in place until the Student Policy Review Committee completes their review of the informal practices for clothing-optionality in residence halls.

The moratorium was announced in an email from Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson to all heads of house and house presidents Feb. 5. 

In her email, Nelson wrote that during the moratorium, “all residents and guests in any residence hall will be fully clothed—including wearing a shirt—when outside the privacy of their rooms, bathrooms, and showers.” The moratorium applies to students of all gender identities.

The review of clothing-optionality in residence halls was prompted by recent incidents in East Campus, according to Nelson’s email. 

In a November 2019 email to EC residents, Judy Robinson, senior associate dean for residential education, and David Friedrich, senior associate dean for housing and residential services, wrote that they “received reports of two separate incidents involving nudity in front of MIT workers that may have violated Institute policy.”

These incidents may have additionally violated EC protocols put in place November 2018 to address clothing-optionality around staff and contractors, Robinson and Friedrich wrote. The policy violation resulted in the establishment of an EC clothing-optionality moratorium in November 2019. The incidents were also reported to the Title IX and Bias Response office, which has since been renamed the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response (IDHR) office.

EC residents held a meeting Feb. 3 with Nelson, Robinson, Friedrich, Don Camelio, associate dean for residential education, and Sarah Affel, manager of investigations of IDHR, to discuss the moratorium. At the meeting, EC residents voiced their concerns about the moratorium and learned about the creation of the Student Policy Review Committee.

The committee will begin its review “shortly,” Nelson wrote in her email. The outcome of the review, which is projected to be completed before the end of the current academic year, will apply to all residence halls. 

Robinson and Friedrich wrote in an email to EC residents after the meeting that the goal of the committee is to better understand the experiences of students, staff, and contractors, to assess the impact clothing-optionality practices, and to ensure that MIT work environments and living communities are “safe, comfortable, and free from harassment and discrimination” for both employees and students. 

The committee will be composed of two representatives each from the Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council, two at-large student members, and one representative each from the communities (EC and Random) that currently have clothing-optional spaces, as well as seven staff from Student Support, Residential Life, Facilities, IDHR, Human Resources, and the Office of General Counsel. 

The committee will additionally include three faculty members: the Chair of the Committee on Discipline and the Random and EC heads of house conveners or their designees.

Robinson and Friedrich also wrote in their email that residents with “ideas on how to refine the moratorium’s parameters” could share them with the EC president Miana Smith ’21. Smith can then forward the suggestions to the committee chair, to be discussed at the committee’s first meeting. Smith wrote in an email to The Tech that EC will have further community meetings to talk about the moratorium and its effects on residents.

In addition, Robinson and Friedrich wrote that the EC house team and executive officers may request updates on the committee's progress. To address concerns raised by EC residents, Robinson and Friedrich “are reviewing what contractors wear for identification when working in the building to make sure they are recognizable as staff approved to be there.”