President Reif announces big picture plans for Summer and Fall 2021

Summer would be a time for ‘slow dialing up’ towards Fall while ‘fuller operations’ are expected for Fall 2021

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Upon receiving news about summer and fall semester plans, MIT community members look forward to a brighter future on campus and a more lively Infinite Corridor.

President L. Rafael Reif sketched out the big picture plans for the Summer and Fall of 2021 in an email to the MIT community March 12. Summer is expected to be a time for “slow dialing up” towards the fall. “Full academic and research activities” are expected to resume on campus with the “full student population back to residences, classrooms, and labs” by September, Reif wrote.

Reif expressed confidence in the “basic framework” of this plan but recognized the associated uncertainties with the expectation that working arrangements “will be different in important ways.”

Reif wrote that only “a few summer programs are expected to run and not at full capacity.” Detailed updates, addressing questions concerning employees, students, and everyone involved in summer programs, will be communicated over the next few weeks. He also noted that the idea is “to test the preparedness of the systems with a rising challenge, but not to push them to the limit” while preparations for “fuller operations during Fall” are underway.

While MIT faculty and employees will also be welcomed back, those working on “student life and learning” may be expected to come back sooner.

Reif stated that the newly emerged “remote” working arrangements are being considered while following up on one of the “principal recommendations of Task Force 2021.”

“Work Succeeding,” a cross-Institute planning team led by Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen, Vice President for Campus Services and Stewardship Joe Higgins, and Associate Provost Krystyn Van Vliet PhD ’02, is starting to assess how “various hybrid approaches to work life” could transpire for MIT Staff. This project tests “a variety of models systematically” that will produce “a range of useful blueprints to arrive at a new normal.”

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 added in an email to The Tech that while this is “an exciting and promising step” toward the Fall, the details still need to take shape. She recognized the uncertainties of “the trajectory of the virus, pace of vaccinations, and changing public health requirements” with which MIT is contending while planning for the future.

Barnhart further elaborated that the implementation of the plan for Fall would mean preparing for “in-person instruction and research.” She said that she would follow up “directly with all students soon” with additional information about MIT’s Fall 2021 plan.

She emphasized the importance of knowing that “we are cautiously optimistic about the possibility of all being together on campus again,” and expects that “many of the COVID-era restrictions” could be lifted. She stated that before the current plan for Fall could be implemented, “all the Institute COVID policies should continue to be followed” for the health and safety of the MIT community.

Allen, together with the Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88 and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor, shared further information in an email to The Tech about the “Work Succeeding” initiative and other updates for staff and faculty on March 16.

The updates noted that the budget will be affected due to COVID-19 while “entering a new fiscal year” July 1. It is anticipated that some “amount of Covid testing and enhanced cleaning of facilities” will continue, but that “there is potential for some continued disruption of research as we move into” fiscal year 2022.

In the email to The Tech, Allen wrote that the Institute has “more than 13,000 staff and faculty members on campus, at Lincoln Laboratory and other satellite research facilities such as Haystack Observatory and the Bates Research and Engineering Center.” 

The “Work Succeeding” initiative aims to think holistically about all the staffing areas. This process involves an initial survey of a cross-section of staff members from administrative areas to “gather thoughts on their experience of remote work.” After reviewing their feedback, “a range of models and recommendations for the future of work across the MIT community will be considered,” both in the short- and long-term.

When keeping “the number of staff, the wide range of work performed, and the decentralized nature of the Institute” in mind, Allen pointed out that “one solution cannot be offered.” The summer and fall plans call for “multiple, flexible options to accommodate the varying needs of staff members and requirements for academic, research, and administrative continuity.”

Update 3/21/21: A previous version of this article attributed an email sent to The Tech to Director of Communications for Human Resources Stacie Slotnick. The article has been edited to correctly state that the email was signed by Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen, along with Provost Martin Schmidt and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor.