Summer FAQ 01, July 1, 2020

Dear all, 

There is a lot that we all don’t know about the Fall and the future, as our community, the Institute, and the state and country cope with the uncertainty and unpredictability of the current pandemic. As we work to provide continuity and connectedness in our work and life together, we’re launching a set of weekly FAQ’s to answer the questions you have the best we are able to, and also connect you to other parts of the Institute who are setting policy and planning around things not in the Department’s direct control (like academic schedules, tuition, and policies around building access.) Many thanks to ASC leadership for helping assemble this first week’s questions, as well as to all those who helped work on these answers—which this week included Andreea O’Connell, Reneé Caso, Cynthia Stewart, Les Norford, and Terry Knight. Please respond to this email with any follow-up questions -- we are already working on next week’s edition, which will follow the Institute’s announcement to all of us of fall schedule and undergraduate enrollment details, planned for next week.

 -- Nicholas de Monchaux

1. Do I have to be in Cambridge to attend MIT Architecture in the Fall?


 As detailed in our letter of June 24, instruction in the Department of Architecture will be primarily online, with any physical or in-person resources related to making or learning on-campus considered supplementary. In parallel with figuring out how we can make best use of potential campus access to supplement online learning, we are also working with the Institute to figure out how to best support online learning with offline resources for those not in Cambridge as well. If you are not able to be in the United States, however, let us know as soon as possible by emailing us, as we will need to work with the International Student Office to understand sany visa issues involved.

2. When will we get more information about the semester schedule, option studios etc.?

The fall schedule will be set by the Institute in the next two weeks (an announcement is promised the week of July 6.) In his letter of two weeks ago, President Reif wrote of this plan that “...we may need to start a week early (around September 1), end any in-person instruction before Thanksgiving, and finish the term remotely.” We will follow up this announcement with more information as it shapes our own plans.

3. Will I have to come on campus if I am in Cambridge?


If, for any reason, you are unable or prefer not to potentially access campus spaces, it will not affect your ability to complete your courses, nor will it affect your grades, or any other  performance evaluation. 

4. How will classes and studios be taught this fall? 

As noted above, instruction will be primarily online, potentially supplemented by offline resources both for  those present in Cambridge, and, as much as possible, for those not as well. Any instructor wishing to schedule an in-person component will need to present a proposal to do so to the Department, which must include plans to equitably offer experiences to off-campus students as well.

As part of our summer planning process, we are currently working to understand the most effective online teaching methods for every subject, including studios, and equipping faculty with a set of policies, guidelines and best practices that will allow the most effective instruction under these circumstances. This will not necessarily resemble instruction in the last months of the spring semester (which focused on bringing born-offline classes online). 

5. How are decisions about the fall in the department being made?

As outlined in meetings throughout May, including the May 27 ASC Town Hall (slides here) there are three committees working on and evaluating potential plans for the fall within the department, all with representation from Faculty, Staff, and ASC/Students. Meeting weekly are two committees - one examining curriculum, space and schedule, and the other examining community events and support. Every two weeks, a committee combining the department cabinet (heads of discipline groups and academic programs as well as associate department heads) along with the AO and staff and ASC representatives meets to discuss progress and options. As our ongoing situation remains dynamic, final decisions will be made by department leadership, but based on the consensus of these representative discussions.

6. Will students have access to libraries?

Access to libraries is not determined by the Department. However, this past week a committee, including representation from the Department of Architecture and campus Libraries, began meeting to plan a ramp-up of access to non-laboratory research facilities, including Libraries. We recognize that access to libraries is an urgent need for many of our students, and are working to advocate for this access at the Institute level.

7. Will students have access to fabrication spaces?

We are planning for potential access to fabrication spaces, as well as the potential provision of fabrication services to students (e.g. 3D printing) for pickup, both at scheduled times and according to Institute-level policies as they continue to be developed. We are also working with campus-wide resources to determine potential strategies for access to making spaces off-campus for students not in Cambridge.

8. How many hours a day will students have campus access?

Any plans for potential access to campus will not be 24/7, but on the order of several class periods. These plans have not been confirmed by the Institute. 

9. How will spaces be sanitized?

The larger Institute process of ramp-up and campus access is dedicated to ensuring, as much as possible, the health and safety of our students and community members. Policies for the fall, when spaces will be potentially open to students for scheduled access, have not yet been fully developed by the Institute, but we will share them with you when they are. These will be in addition to policies already developed for a limited return of research personnel to campus, listed in a FAQ here. As a further reminder (see #3 above), no student will be required to come to campus in the Fall as part of coursework.

10. Some people might not be able to re-enter the country in the fall and might not be able to return in the spring due to life changes. Is there a possibility that students have the option to do the spring online?

We are focusing our current planning on Fall 2020, but any plans for Spring 2021 will include a reasonable accommodation of any outcome students are likely to face given restrictions on visa entry and travel as a result of our current crisis.

11. Will there be flexibility in completing required credits?

Yes. For curricula we control in the department, primarily at the graduate level, we are actively discussing how to accommodate issues around workload and credits to ensure both timely graduation and the challenges of workloads in a primarily online learning environment. There is a parallel discussion of undergraduate course load happening at the Institute level, in which we are participating actively.

12. Is there any discussion regarding tuition adjustments for AY 20-21?

Tuition at MIT is set and collected by the Provost at the Institute level, not in the Department. We are not privy to any current discussion on tuition at the Institute level — although this does not mean such a discussion is not taking place. In a Spring 2020 FAQ for graduate students on the Institute’s Covid-19 Info Center this issue was addressed as follows: “Our actual cost to educate every student is about twice what we charge. And we are incurring considerable costs in order to bring the academic experience online for all of our students during the Covid-19 crisis.” 

13. Have there been any conversations amongst faculty regarding our last Town all and how some requests made could get implemented in the fall curriculum?

Yes. It is our goal to introduce a process of curriculum reform beginning in AY 20-21 as discussed in the Town Hall and outlined in our action plan of June 11. These discussions are ongoing, with a goal to implement and introduce new courses and resources for syllabi as early as Fall 2020, but no later than Spring 2021.