Fall FAQ 01, October 30, 2020

Welcome back to our series of occasional departmental FAQs! The push into studio and classwork slowed down the pace of questions this semester, but thanks to our ongoing quality-of-life surveys and some thoughtful communication from some of you, we now have a bumper crop for our first FAQ email of the fall (mid) semester. 

Thanks to all those who helped with this week’s FAQ, which include Jim Harrington, Renée Caso, Cynthia Stewart, Les Norford and Andreea O’Connell. Thanks to Rania Kadaan, who is working in HQ this semester as well to coordinate surveys with ASC. 

As always, some questions are amalgamated. If you have a question you do not see answered here or in previous emails, please let us know — we will send out these emails whenever we receive questions to be answered, up to a weekly frequency. In addition, we are planning on a Town Hall next Friday, November 6, at which feedback and questions around strategies for studio spaces and hybrid learning strategies will be especially welcome as we begin to plan for next semester. 

We remain enormously grateful to all of you for your patience, engagement, and commitment to our community.

Why are we restricted to three hour blocks in studio and workshops? This time restriction makes it very difficult to get going on work - can we please extend or look at another format for building access?

This is a public-health focused restriction mandated by MIT, and which applies to every teaching space on campus. MIT's modeling — which includes measurements and airflow simulations of our departmental spaces — shows that duration of stay indoors is closely related to COVID-19 transmission probability. A stay of three hours is below the risk threshold the Institute has determined for teaching spaces, and a stay of three hours is above it. Leaving a space mostly empty between three hour blocks is an essential component of ensuring student safety. Finally, the space between the three-hour time blocks is set not only to allow for full air replacement, but also allows custodial staff to sanitize common work surfaces.

Winter Session/ IAP this year - It feels important to plan in advance, but I am not sure what to expect?

IAP 2021 will be virtual and begins on Monday, January 4, 2021 and ends on Friday, January 29, 2021. More information about 2021’s IAP, including access to the system for proposing non-credit IAP activities (student-led workshops etc.) is available at
The department will be offering several for-credit workshops over IAP, to be announced within the next two weeks.

What is next semester most likely going to be like ?

In terms of time and schedule, the Institute will start to the semester and with similar format to the Fall Semester of 2020. 

  • There will be a week of registration prior to the start of the term from Mon. Feb. 8 to Fri. Feb. 12. 
  • Classes begin virtually on Tues., February 16, and in-person campus activities will begin on Mon., March 1. 
  • Spring break is cancelled but several long weekend holidays are dispersed throughout the semester to better provide more frequent, meaningful breaks from online work. (March 8, 22 & 23, April 19 & 20, May 7.) 
  • The number of class days are 62 instead of 65, three days less than a normal semester.
  • Final exam period will be four days instead of five (Mon. May 24-Thurs. May 27).
  • Commencement will occur one week later on Friday, June 4. 

The updated calendar can be viewed at

At the level of the department, we are looking to work with our whole community this fall to improve student experiences as much as we can from the baseline of our current hybrid model. Over the summer, we worked with students, staff and faculty to arrive at this fall’s policies and procedures, with the goal of allowing as much access to campus resources as possible while preserving as much individual choice as possible. Looking to the spring already, we are seeking to both create more robust on-campus experiences (resuming limited-size shop-based classes) as well as continuing to improve support and provide opportunities for off-campus making. 

Looking to the spring in particular, we are trying to maximise our opportunities for adaptation and improvement in a world which we cannot directly anticipate. On the one hand, we currently have no specific public-health reason to believe the hazards and opportunities of the spring semester will be any different from the fall. On the other hand, we are still nearly six months from the proposed start of on-campus activities in the spring semester, and, if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that a lot can happen in six months. 

The rules for graduate students living off campus trying to gather with a few friends in a safe way. There was a lot of confusion about what MIT considers allowable.

Groups of up to 10 Covid-pass users may gather on campus according to specific guidelines posted here. As noted in the same document, MIT encourages students on or off-campus, whether participating in Covid-pass or not, to limit off-campus social engagements to fewer than six people, and to consider other safety measures such as clustering in pods to minimize risk to our whole community. See

How many credits do I have to take this semester? Next semester? Will I be able to graduate on time if I don’t take a full load? 

The answer to this question is individual to each degree program and each student. In general, most degree programs are flexible enough that a load of 36 units for graduate students and 48 for undergraduate students in the fall and spring terms will advance you through your program in a timely manner. 

M.Arch students graduating this academic year will have leeway in being able to graduate with elective unit deficiencies, and we are currently working on revising degree requirements with the Institute, via the Department’s M.Arch. committee, to extend this flexibility to all currently enrolled students whose time in the degree will be affected by the pandemic. 

There is degree requirement information on the Dept. of Architecture website under each degree program listing. Each term, M.Arch and undergraduate students receive an academic audit, with a copy to your advisor, to assist with planning. 

If you have concerns about being able to maintain your workload, or if you are on track to graduate on time, please discuss with both your advisor and your degree administrator. (Cynthia Stewart for all masters programs; Renée Caso of PhD and both undergraduate programs.)