Undergraduates required to move out of dorms and FSILGs by March 17
Classes canceled March 16–20, to switch to online formats starting March 30
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, undergraduates living in MIT dorms, fraternities, sororities, or independent living groups (FSILGs) are required to move out by noon March 17. Classes will be canceled March 16–20, extending to spring break, which runs March 23–27. Classes will resume in online-only formats March 30.
President L. Rafael Reif announced the changes in an email to the MIT community around 5 p.m. March 10.
Canceling classes the week before spring break “will allow faculty and instructors two weeks to organize a full transition to online instruction,” Reif wrote. Classes will continue the week of March 9
Undergraduates who wish to request an exception to remain on campus or request financial support for their departure from campus must fill out an online form by noon March 13.
Students will receive a response within 24 hours, according to a March 11 email from Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson, and Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz to all MIT students. The petitions will be examined on an individual basis by student support staff in the Division of Student Life (DSL) and the Office of the Vice Chancellor.
Reif wrote that exceptions may be made for international students who are from countries “hard-hit” by COVID-19 or may not be able to return to MIT due to visa issues, students with no home to return to, or students for whom “going home would be unsafe given the circumstances of their home country or home life.”
According to an email forwarded to The Tech, DSL encouraged a student whose petition for an exception was rejected to “think creatively about other alternatives and places where they will be able to stay.”
Students requesting financial support must describe on the form “how paying for [their] departure may create a significant financial hardship,” Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote.
For students leaving on-campus or FSILG housing, MIT “will refund the actual costs for housing and meal plan on a pro-rated basis,” Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote. MIT will also refund half the spring semester student life fee, which is $170.
MIT will also “reduce the amount we expect students to earn through a term-time job on a pro-rated basis and cover that amount with additional MIT Scholarship,” Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote. Student financial aid will not otherwise be affected by the changes.
Harvard University has enacted similar policies. Harvard classes will switch to remote instruction starting March 23, and students are asked to not return after spring break March 16–20.
Stanford is also switching to online classes. However, undergraduates currently on campus who “feel they need to remain here through the spring break and the spring quarter” are “welcome to do so” provided they fill out an online form, according to the Stanford Health Alerts website.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency March 10 after the number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 92. As of press time, Massachusetts has 95 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 77 of these cases were traced back to the Biogen Annual Health Care conference, at which three attendees were initially infected.
In an effort to contain COVID-19, Trump has suspended travel from Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) for 30 days, starting March 13.
COVID-19 at MIT
MIT became aware March 11 that “a CSAIL staff member had a brief interaction in recent days with someone who was diagnosed today with COVID-19,” MIT Medical announced on its website.
The staff member is “not currently displaying any COVID-19 symptoms, but is voluntarily self-quarantining.” The interaction occurred off campus, MIT Medical wrote.
“It was determined that there is little to no risk to the MIT community from this encounter,” MIT Medical wrote, adding that “public health officials are in charge of deciding whether to investigate possible contacts.”
“If you are not contacted by the Department of Public Health, you are not presumed to be at immediate risk,” MIT Medical wrote.
Additionally, an individual who visited Sloan on Feb. 26 and 27 developed symptoms March 4 and was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to an email from David Schmittlein, dean of the Sloan School of Management, to Sloan students March 9.
“Any MIT Sloan staff or students known to have interacted with this person are currently on self-quarantine and asymptomatic,” Schmittlein wrote.
Schmittlein wrote that MIT Facilities “has deep-cleaned the on-campus spaces where this individual visited and continues to clean all touch points across campus,” such as door knobs, elevator buttons, and handrails.
Reif wrote that freshmen, sophomores, and juniors should pack and travel home as if they “do not expect to return here until the fall semester,” and seniors should pack as if they “will not return to MIT for classes.”
Residents are also required to fill out an intent form outlining their move-out plans and forwarding address.
Residence halls and FSILGs place students “in close quarters,” Reif wrote, and while collaboration at MIT is valued during “normal times,” it “increases the risk of Covid-19 spreading on our campus.”
Reif wrote that MIT’s plan “follows directly from state health guidance that universities take steps to reduce the density of the population on campus and increase social distancing.”
Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote that Housing and Residential Services (HRS) will “provide residence halls with boxes and bins for moving as well as dumpsters for disposing of trash.” HRS is also “exploring storage options” for dorms and FSILGs.
Most dorms have informed residents that they are guaranteed a limited amount of storage. Residents of Baker, East Campus, Maseeh, McCormick, and Random can store two boxes or one box and a small fridge. Residents of Simmons and Burton Conner can store at least five boxes.
David Friedrich, senior associate dean for housing and residential services, wrote in an email to the student body March 11 that carts will be available in the lobbies of most residence halls. In addition, the “move-out envelope will provide a blank address field for residents to identify their preferred mailing address for the remainder of the semester,” and all packages received after move-out will be returned to sender, Friedrich wrote.
“For now, dining operations will continue with some slight modifications. Self-service stations will be closed; stations will be full service or offered as grab and go,” Reif wrote.
All five dining halls will be open on their regular schedules through dinner March 17. The pick-a-lunch in Walker Memorial will close at the end of service March 12, Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote.
Starting March 18, all residential dining halls except Maseeh will be closed. Maseeh dining will serve brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
MIT Dining will “assess conditions for eateries across campus and may make schedule changes as needed,” Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote.
TechMart will close 7 p.m. March 15. TechMart will relocate to the Coffeehouse Lounge on the third floor of the student center and reopen March 19. Store hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Only credit card, debit card, and TechCash will be accepted.
Stratton Student Center will close 9 p.m. March 17.
Starting March 18, the student center will only be accessible to MIT community members with “valid staff, faculty, student, or affiliate IDs” from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Reif wrote that online instruction will be implemented for all classes from March 30 until the end of the spring semester.
Since March 10, all lectures with more than 150 students in a single classroom have been required to take place online, according to an email from Waitz to MIT deans and department heads March 9.
“We have just sent a note to all EECS instructors asking them to immediately delay (or cancel) exams and homeworks that were due this week until after the Spring break,” EECS faculty heads Joel Voldman PhD ’01, Antonio Torralba, Arvind, and EECS department head Asu Ozdaglar PhD ’03 wrote on 6.AcAd (the EECS academic Piazza).
Similarly, math department head Michel Goemans PhD ’90 wrote in an email to the math community that instructors should be “flexible and understanding” by postponing or cancelling midterms and automatically extending this week’s assignment deadlines to next week.
Math academic administrator Barbara Peskin wrote on 18.MMFORUM (the math department Piazza) that the math department “doesn’t know” how its summer research programs such as SPUR and UROP+ will be affected.
The Tech has received confirmation that several classes have rescheduled and virtualized their midterms.
In an email to all 6.046 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms) students, instructor Mauricio Karchmer wrote that the two originally scheduled quizzes will be replaced with an online midterm. “Due to the rapidly changing situation and the associated stress that is interfering with some students’ ability to concentrate on academics right now, we have concluded that holding the planned quiz this evening would not be productive,” Karchmer wrote.
“We are sympathetic that all of your lives have been turned upside down, and that you have many challenges in these coming days,” Professor John Gabrieli PhD ’87 wrote in an email to all 9.00 (Introduction to Psychological Science) students.
Global Languages (GL) director Emma Teng wrote in an email to all GL students that while teaching remotely will be a “new experience,” language instructors are “working hard to make sure that your GL classes will be as rich and academically rewarding as possible.”
“For majors, minors, concentrators – especially those who are graduating – we will be paying special attention to making sure your requirements are fulfilled in the best possible way,” Teng wrote. Teng added that once remote instruction is implemented, faculty and staff will look into maintaining the “vibrant” GL community “through social media or other means.”
As of press time, over 1,500 students have signed a petition to allow students to opt-in to grading standards of PE (for A, B, or C level performance) and NE (for D or F performance) in accordance with section 2.64 of the Rules & Regulations of the Faculty.
The regulations state that the Chair of the Faculty can authorize the use of these grades “when the performance of a student is substantively impacted by a period of Significant Disruption.”
Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote that the Faculty Officers “are currently working to determine the most appropriate academic policies to establish.”
PE classes and swim test
Stephanie Smith, director of recreation, wrote in an email to MIT students March 10 that all recreation programs and activities will be canceled March 16 to May 15. Quarter 4 PE classes will be canceled, but students are expected to attend Quarter 3 classes until Friday. “As of right now, DAPER facilities will be open for informal recreation on our regular schedule,” Smith wrote.
“We understand that recreation is a source of stress relief, social connectedness, and physical fitness for many in the MIT community,” Smith wrote. Questions may be submitted to DAPER through an online form.
Seniors who need to satisfy the swim graduation requirement should “take the swim test before [they] leave campus,” Carrie Moore, director of physical education and wellness, wrote in an email to students registered for a swim class March 10. The test will be offered 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. March 12.
On March 14, students can request up to two virtual make up PE assignments from email@example.com. Students with questions about Quarter 4 can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIT Libraries’ service points will be closed from March 14 until further notice, according to the MIT Libraries website. All online library services will continue.
MIT Libraries plans to keep all 24/7 study spaces open (excluding the Hayden Library study space, which is currently being renovated) “pending confirmation of custodial services availability,” the email wrote.
The Scan & Deliver service will continue so that community members can access digital copies of materials while the libraries are closed.
Library staff will remain available during the closure “to help the community access online resources and services,” according to the website.
All student organization events scheduled after 5 p.m. March 13 are canceled, according to an email from the Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement Office (SOLE) to student leaders. Events “previously approved by the Institute” and scheduled before that time will be allowed.
Students cannot change the date of a previously scheduled event to take place before that time, and “no new student organization event registrations will be approved,” SOLE wrote.
SOLE recommends that student organizations submit a record of lost funds due to event cancellations through the Unrecoverable Expenses/Loss Revenue Report.
Undergraduate Association (UA) President Mahi Elango ’20 wrote in an email to undergraduates March 11 that the UA and DSL are working together to transfer unused student group funding, along with “a large majority of the UA budget” to MIT's ARM Coalition to help with “emergency assistance for students.” Student groups interested in participating should fill out an online form. The UA has already recieved over $100,000, Elango wrote.
SOLE is developing an updated FAQ about COVID-19 and student organization events. Students can send questions to COVIDevents@mit.edu or SOLE@mit.edu.
For the rest of spring semester, MIT students who are enrolled full-time “will be considered to be maintaining their F-1 or J-1 student visa status, whether they are physically inside the U.S. or outside the U.S.,” according to an email from David Elwell, associate dean and director of the International Students Office (ISO), to international students.
Students who are returning to the U.S. within 5 months will “be considered to have continually maintained their visa status.” This will allow them to participate in on-campus employment, apply for off-campus employment authorizations, and continue studying at MIT after this semester, Elwell wrote.
“While F-1 student regulations do place certain limits on online instruction, the federal government has informed US institutions of higher education that it anticipates being flexible if institutions make temporary curricular changes in response to COVID-19,” Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote.
“We do not believe MIT’s move to remote teaching for the remainder of the spring semester will adversely impact F-1 students’ visa status,” they continued.
“ISO continues to process any new visa document requests, including for F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training, J-1 Academic Training, Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 Extensions, letters, etc. requested through iMIT,” Elwell wrote. The ISO will also stay open for drop off, pick up, and mailing of visa documents.
F-1 students applying for OPT authorization for summer work must ensure their application is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services while they are physically present in the U.S.
Students whose F-1 or J-1 visa will expire before they return to the U.S. must apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate while abroad, Elwell wrote.
Students who will not complete their program of study by the end date listed on their Form I-20 (F-1 visa holders) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa holders) should request an extension in iMIT, Elwell wrote. Extension requests will require a letter from the student's undergraduate or graduate administrator.
The ISO will continue to provide services to students remotely. “In-person appointments may be limited, but ISO Advisors will continue to be available by email or by phone,” Elwell wrote.
The ISO will update students through the “ISO Updates-Spring 2020” and “Major Immigration Updates and Alerts” pages on the ISO website, along with ISO Broadcast emails and the ISO E-Newsletters. Students can also find information about visa and travel restrictions on the U.S. Embassy and Consulate websites.
Graduate students, including Graduate Resident Advisors, are not required to move off campus. However, graduate students who can work remotely are “strongly encouraged” to relocate off campus, Reif wrote.
“As with MIT staff, we ask that all research groups take steps to increase social distancing in the workplace,” Reif wrote.
Barnhard, Nelson, and Waitz wrote that graduate students will receive an email with more information “very soon.”
Faculty and staff
“For now, MIT operations will continue as normal, and staff should report to work unless they are sick,” Reif wrote.
Reif wrote that supervisors should be “flexible, adaptable and sensitive to conditions in each unit,” particularly in regards to staff members who may “fall into categories of greater risk.”
“In case working remotely ultimately becomes necessary, all units should start planning to make that broadly feasible,” Reif wrote.
“No decision has yet been made about this year's Commencement ceremonies,” Reif wrote.
MISTI summer programs
MISTI summer programs may be affected. Although the new international travel policies are only in place until May 15, “the situation is fluid,” Kimberly Allen, director of media relations, wrote in an email to The Tech.
“MISTI has informed interested students that they may either continue the process towards identifying a placement abroad for the summer, or they may withdraw from the program without penalty,” Allen wrote.
“MISTI’s top priority is the safety of our students, so we will continue to monitor developments and any changes to MIT's policies and advise students accordingly,” April Julich Perez, executive director of MISTI, told Allen.
MISTI Italy director Serenella Sferza wrote in an email to program applicants March 6 that several MISTI Italy partners “have been unable to commit to hosting a MIT student.” Students should “explore other alternatives” but “preserve some flexibility, so you will be able to go if the crisis gets resolved,” Sferza wrote.
Many students have reacted negatively to MIT’s response to COVID-19.
Students held a party on Killian Court around 2:45 p.m. March 10 in response to rumors that undergraduates would be required to move out of their dorms. Notably, students brought a Purell dispenser from Lobby 10 to the party. Police shut down the party about an hour later.
Vandalism was reported at Burton Conner the night of March 10.
“We understand that with the COVID-19 institutional actions, our daily lives have been disrupted, however, this behavior is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in our living communities,” Friedrich and Judy Robinson, senior associate dean for residential education, wrote in an email to Burton Conner residents.
Students or floors found responsible for the vandalism will be billed for the damages and may face disciplinary action, Friedrich and Robinson wrote, adding that students should “not add unnecessary challenges to an already difficult time.”
Some students have also expressed concern about the effects of forcing undergraduates to move out on short notice.
Lillian Chin G wrote in an email to The Tech that MIT’s actions are “the equivalent of a landlord evicting an entire apartment complex in 5 days notice.”
“Having 6000 people, probably carriers, travel around the world back to their parents and grandparents to save the university population is literally a reverse quarantine,” Chin wrote.
Chin also criticized MIT’s failure to “open Metropolitan Storage Warehouse as storage space for undergrads, despite vacating it years earlier.”
Chin wrote that although her PhD research has not been affected by the changes, she has faced a significant “personal burden” in the face of “mass chaos and uncertainty” before Reif’s announcement. Chin has had to “console” UROP students who can no longer work in her lab and “field questions for her fellow graduate students who were less plugged into the rumor network.”
Chin has volunteered to let displaced undergraduates stay in her house.
MIT updates about COVID-19 will be available at mit.edu/covid19.
Students can fill out an online form for S3 to subsidize “urgent costs such as winter clothing or an emergency trip home,” according to the MIT Division of Student Life website. The form requires speaking with a S3 dean in person or over the phone. However, S3 has no more availability for appointments this week.
For non-critical needs or situations which may be better fulfilled by other resources, S3 requests may be denied and students will be provided alternate resources.
Students should send questions about specific moving logistics to their Housing Operation Manager, Area Directors, or email@example.com.
Resources for students facing food insecurity are available at https://studentlife.mit.edu/s3/money-food-resources/food-resources. Undergraduates can request meal swipes by speaking to a S3 dean or complete the Meal Swipe Request Form. Graduate students can email Naomi Carton, associate dean for graduate residential life, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who will not have reliable access to the internet and computing resources for online learning can contact email@example.com.
In response to many colleges enacting similar measures to MIT, U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage to students moving from their schools, as well as special rates for rental trucks and trailers, according to an email from U-Haul forwarded to The Tech, though there “may be limited availability.”
A Pod Pass must be placed on all storage pods, which should be put in specific parking spaces while on MIT campus. Students should refer to the pod storage protocol and contact 617-258-6510 or firstname.lastname@example.org. MIT Parking and Transportation must grant permission for students to obtain private storage pods.
Graduate students can send requests and inquiries to email@example.com.
Students whose course instructors are being inflexible with coursework or attendance can email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out an online form.
Cambridge mayor Sumbul Siddiqui tweeted March 10 that students who are unable to find housing because of their university’s COVID-19 policies can message her or contact her office at 617-448-1525.
Barnhart, Nelson, and Waitz wrote that MIT is “taking steps to virtualize” personal support resources such as Student Support Services, the Office of the First Year, the Office of Minority Education, GradSupport, and Student Mental Health and Counseling Services.
Additionally, all MIT offices are “open and will be accessible to undergraduates in-person” until March 17.
Students in need of support from MIT alumni or other community members can fill out an online form. Alumni, graduate students, or other community members interested in providing help can fill out a separate form.
Yolanda Lau ’02, the creator of the two forms, wrote in an email to The Tech that she, like most of the alumni she knows, continues to feel “deeply connected to MIT and the MIT community.”
Lau wrote that after speaking to several alumni upon hearing of MIT’s decision, the “general consensus was that we all wanted to figure out how to help.”
Lau has received over 450 form responses. Alumni and community members have offered housing and financial support, emotional support, and airline miles. “Some of the responses have explicitly stated temporary housing (1 week or less) but generally people seem open to longer stays,” Lau wrote.
“I cannot imagine how I would be feeling right now if I was one of the students being asked to pack up and go home,” Lau wrote.
Editor’s note: This article may be updated as the situation develops.