Preliminary results of COVID-related student surveys released

60% of off-campus undergraduates hope to return to residence halls “when it is safely permitted”

Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson presented preliminary results from the April-May 2020 Housing Experience Survey and the May 2020 Off Campus Survey at the faculty meeting May 13.

The Housing Experience Survey, sent to students living in on-campus emergency housing April 25, had a 54% response rate for undergraduates and a 42% response rate for graduate students. 

Students were asked for their opinions on current public health policies where “all common areas are closed,” visitors are banned “with few exceptions,” “residents must adhere strictly to social distancing guidelines,” and “residents must follow enhanced personal hygiene practices” including the use of masks. 

On each policy, 64%-80% of respondents indicated that the policy was “fine as it is now,” with the rest indicating that the policy should be relaxed or strengthened. Undergraduates were slightly more likely than graduate students to request that policies be relaxed and slightly less likely to prefer stronger policies.

Over 75% of respondents indicated that it is “easy” or “extremely easy” to practice social distancing in the building they currently live in.

The Housing Experience Survey also found that 56% of respondents described their “overall mental and emotional health” as excellent or good. However, 60% of all respondents indicated that COVID-19 has “worsened their mental health and wellbeing” while only nine percent indicated an improvement.

The Off Campus Survey, sent to students living off campus May 3, had a 59% response rate for undergraduates and a 56% response rate for graduate students. The survey found that over half of all MIT students are currently living in Massachusetts.

According to the survey, 60% of undergraduate respondents and 18% of graduate respondents “hope to live in an MIT residence hall when it is safely permitted.” However, 28% of undergraduate respondents and 26% of graduate respondents “would probably stay” where they are now “if MIT has online instruction and reduced on-campus operations.”

Only 26% of on-campus and 24% of off-campus undergraduate respondents “agree strongly” that they “feel like part of the community at MIT,” compared to 41% of respondents in the 2019 Undergraduate Enrolled Student Survey. Only 17% of on-campus and 13% of off-campus graduate respondents gave the same response, compared to 30% of respondents in the 2019 Graduate Enrolled Student Survey.

In a statement emailed to The Tech, Nelson wrote that MIT’s “housing policies are informed by current medical and public health guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19.” However, the Division of Student Life (DSL) has “appreciated on-campus residents’ input” in evaluating “the policies’ effectiveness.” 

Nelson wrote that while fall housing policies are still uncertain, it is “likely” that “students will find requirements for physical distancing, face coverings in public areas, and restrictions on events and use of common space to be in effect.” 

Additionally, Nelson wrote that respondents to the Housing Experience Survey have “identified barriers to following new policies and shared ideas for ways to improve.” For example, some students expressed “concern about the ability for desk workers to remain physically distant from residents and delivery workers.” As a result, DSL is considering installing clear shields at front desks.

Nelson wrote that in addition to virtualizing student support resources, DSL is also considering establishing a “virtual wellbeing center where students can access resources easily, quickly get answers to their questions, and be directed to the right office to help support them.”

Jessica Shi contributed reporting.