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Last of the Summer FAQ, or first of the Fall harvest.

Welcome to the last of our summer FAQ emails. (While we will still be answering FAQs for the foreseeable future, they will become Fall FAQs as of Monday...) 

Today’s email outlines what we know as of today about access to campus, computing and workshop facilities, libraries and grading. For some of these subjects — in particular those related to campus access — we will be able to follow up with even more specific information in the next few days as the Institute resolves last-minute questions related to workshops, scheduling and procedures. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we, and those working with us in the Institute, complete the herculean task of re-opening, repurposing, and re-imagining how the campus operates for this fall.

This week particularly, I thank all those who helped assemble these answers in an institutional landscape at MIT where answers have been changing day-by-day. For today’s email, this includes Les Norford, Andreea O’Connell, Jim Harrington, Renee Caso, and Matthew Harrington.

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 throughout the fall whenever there are questions to be answered, up to a weekly frequency. We remain enormously grateful to all of you for your patience, engagement, and commitment to our community.

1. What is the process and protocol of accessing the building? Could you provide more details on how students will be able to access campus, will students have to sign up ahead of time or reserve a slot that will be the same one all throughout the semester?

As outlined in FAQs and town halls over the summer, we will be offering all students a desk and regular access to campus spaces and workshops on a fixed schedule. We have been able to expand these hours of access from the 9 hours originally discussed to a planned 15 hours/week this fall. To ensure even social distancing and limited occupation of campus spaces, you will be assigned a specific studio desk which will dictate the schedule of your studio access. 

To accomplish this strategy within the Institute’s access framework, we have added on-campus ‘recitations’ to cover these access slots to classes available to all students (for M.Arch students, studios, thesis prep for other students, colloquia for PhD students etc.) Your on-campus recitation will not involve meeting with instructors, unless you choose to arrange a socially-distanced meeting outside of class time during the recitation period. But it does mean you need to be enrolled in a specific course — studio for M.Arch. students, thesis prep for SMarchS students, and a variety of colloquia for PhD students — to ensure access on this schedule. Questions on which class to enroll in to ensure desk access should be directed to the director of your academic program. 

Campus access has been arranged in three time-slots: 9AM-12PM, 2-5PM, and 7-10PM, weekdays. These times have been given to us by MIT as the hours for campus activities, with the hours in-between devoted to cleaning. Again, to ensure even social distancing and limited occupation of campus spaces, you will be assigned a specific studio desk which will dictate the schedule of your access to your desk. Expect more information on this desk assignment at the beginning of next week, and know that we will continue to develop these policies over the course of the semester with input from all of you. Beyond our first goal of safety, we will judge these policies on how effective and helpful they are to you — this is our fundamental goal.

2. How will workshop access to students be scheduled?

The Institute has not yet finalized its policies covering shop monitoring and shop access for the fall. Please expect more information on this access, likely to be by appointment on a fixed schedule, early next week.

3. What are the community expectations for the use of shared spaces? Will students be monitored or will it be a collective responsibility? 

Undergraduate students using campus are required by MIT to have a TA present while in the building, but graduate students will not be monitored. As will be discussed in our Town Hall on Friday, August 28, we will rely on each other as a community in shared spaces to practice social distances and hygienic practices, including wipe-in/wipe-out of surfaces. We will be coordinating with ASC to ensure that there are adequate and appropriate channels to share any concerns about space usage, but also that any resolution is focused on safety and community values, not on penalizing or singling out individual students. 

4. What computer resources and services will be available to students both virtual or hybrid?

On-campus computing resources will focus initially on small-and-medium format printing and limited 3-d fabrication resources, with details announced next week. Resources available to all students this semester include:

  • ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD Starting Friday, August 28th, Adobe Creative Cloud will be available for all students at no cost.  More information at the links below:
  • SOFTWARE LICENSING is a broad concern for many as we approach another mostly remote semester.  To that end, STOA has worked with our technology partners in SA&P and IS&T to ensure access to several commonly used applications, along with various software vendors to provide access for students remotely for the coming term.  
    • RHINO continues to be available free of charge to the SA&P Community.  Click here for license configuration.  
    • VRAY for 3DS Max and Rhino has offered the community a limited coupon code that will expire on September 30th.  All interested parties should contact STOA for more information.
    • AUTODESK offers many of the applications in their suite at no cost.
    • ARCGIS is offered at no cost and is licensed for all staff, faculty, and students.
    • MATLab has many free resources available via their MIT Portal.
    • MASTERCAM is licensed for Windows by the MIT Community for educational use.
    • IS&T also offers a wide variety of other applications on their Software Downloads page, including Prisma VPNCrashplan BackupSophos Anti-virus, and VMWare.
  • CLOUD STORAGE OPTIONS are ever evolving, and I want to make sure I highlight some valuable changes to the central services that are currently available at MIT.  
    • DROPBOX had several changes in the offering this Spring that you may not be aware of, and may be of particular interest.  The default quota for faculty, lecturers, and TAs has been raised to 10 Terabytes of space, and the default quota for students and all other community members has been raised to 500 Gigabytes in an effort to better facilitate remote learning and collaboration.  
    • ONEDRIVE is not quite as popular a service at MIT, but it offers one feature that Dropbox does not, and that is tight integration with Moira and your MIT kerberos account for secure access.  The default quota for One Drive is a standard 5 Terabytes of space for all MIT community members, and IS&T does have the ability to offer and expand team sites to as much as 25 Terabytes at no cost.
  • Last, but certainly not least, SLACK was introduced to the MIT Community back in the Spring, and the Department has set up a Workspace at https://mit-architecture.slack.com for use by the Architecture community.  If you have not had a chance to join the workspace, please let us know and we will ensure you have access. 

5. How will libraries be available to students? 

MIT’s Libraries, including the Rotch Library, are not administered by the Department. However, the library's recent updates, available here, outline two strategies for fall library access. Starting August, 31, students will be able to request digital copies of print materials, and starting September 14, it is anticipated that contactless pickup of books and other materials will be available. 

6. Could you touch on the resources available for the students who are not in Cambridge? Will students receive any material to work from home such as a Kit? What about students abroad?

All students in studio classes will receive a kit funded by the department. The timing and contents will vary by course, and we are working with a range of logistics providers to ensure timely delivery to as many of our students as possible, all over the world. We realize these kits might not make their way to every student, and will reimburse students not receiving kits for their own material expenses to make up for this loss. 

7. Will students be refunded for any expenses to access facilities such as makerspaces geographically close to them?

We are dedicated to supporting off-campus making as much as possible, with a dedicated team of TAs led by Zain Karsan supporting off-campus making this semester. In addition, we are happy to speak with individual students whose work potentially involves maker-spaces in distributed locations to consider support and reimbursement for these costs. Please contact 

8. We have read in the emails about the possibility of choosing a class for Pass/Fail grading system for one class. Are there any restrictions on which class that may be? Is studio also available to be Pass/Fail? 

The Pass/No Record option for the fall term may be applied to any subject. For more information on fall 2020 emergency academic regulations and policies, go to the MIT Now website.