Reif shares preliminary fall decisions for undergraduates’ return to campus

Detailed plans about returning students and on-campus experience will be announced by week of July 6

The upcoming school year will have a two-semester structure, and the proportion of undergraduates on campus during the fall term will be “conceivably as high as 60 percent, but likely much lower,” President L. Rafael Reif announced in an email to the MIT community June 17.

This decision was based on Team 2020’s assessment of several options and community feedback. Reif wrote that more detailed plans that answer questions about which undergraduates can return to campus, when the semester will start and end, where students will live, and how campus life and grading will look will be released “no later than the week of July 6th.”

The choice of two semesters helps students “stay on track to their degrees,” Reif wrote. The fall semester may “start a week early (around September 1),” with in-person instruction ending before Thanksgiving. Students would then finish the term remotely. 

Any class that can be taught online “effectively” will be virtual. Reif wrote that undergraduates on campus “will have some small-group in-person learning experiences,” particularly for classes that require lab, workshop, or performance space access.

MIT does not yet know how many undergraduates will be able to return to campus. Reif wrote that this decision “depends on several factors, some beyond our control,” such as the COVID-19 pandemic’s trajectory and government’s response.

Reif wrote that the Institute aims “to give as many students as possible the opportunity to return safely.”

Reif added that students living on campus will be housed in individual rooms “to allow for physical distancing,” so fall undergraduate residential capacity will be lower than normal. Double and triple rooms will be used as single-occupancy rooms.

Reif wrote that MIT has “significant control” over its ability to provide testing, contact tracing, and quarantining, but “no matter how careful we all are,” MIT “must anticipate” COVID-19 cases and have the capacity to identify and limit an outbreak.

On-campus changes during the fall will include mandatory public-health education, mask-wearing, and regular testing. Additionally, daily health checks using an app or website will be required. Contact tracing, physical distancing, and single point entry requiring an MIT ID to access buildings will be implemented, along with reconfigured scheduling and work spaces. There will also be less travel and no large gatherings or lectures.

Reif also wrote that “hundreds of MIT employees” have “continued to work on-site,” and that more community members will return as campus activity increases. 

He listed community members in order of eligibility to return, starting with research staff and faculty “because so much of their work is lab-based,” followed by graduate students whose research “depends on lab access” and whose housing allows for physical distancing. Undergraduates, “many of whom depend on campus resources,” will be allowed to return next. Any administrative and other non-research staff who “can work effectively online” will conduct remote work “at least through the fall semester.”

Reif wrote that MIT is “striving to respond to the wide variation in people’s lives” such as individual health conditions, home work environments, and difficulties reaching campus.