Summer FAQ 02, July 8, 2020

This note continues our weekly series of FAQ’s. Please note, some questions have been amalgamated. If you asked a question that you do not see answered here, please let us know ASAP so we can respond. We remain grateful to all of you as we seek to navigate the complex questions of how best to serve our Department community, and its mission of learning, making, and impacting the world. As ever, please send any follow-up questions to this email, and we will send a new round of questions, and answers, next week. 

Visa and immigration-related related questions:

We have received several questions about student visas for the fall. As a general note, we do not yet know detailed answers to many questions about the announced ICE restrictions on F-1 visas and how they will affect our students. But we do know that the Institute, as outlined by President Reif, is actively working both to block implementation of these rules, as well as support our foreign students as much as possible within our planning for the fall. 

The best expertise on these questions will come from the MIT International Students Office. From their website, “We understand that USDHS plans to release an additional “Frequently Asked Questions”, but it is uncertain when this will be published. MIT is currently reviewing this initial release and will provide a summary to the community soon regarding its potential impact for the Fall.” 

As per previous FAQs, we were planning a hybrid system before the recent ICE announcement, and we are committed to configuring these plans to be as supportive of as many students as possible. We are also committed to reducing as much as possible any conflicts between supporting students present in the US, and those who are not able to join us because of delays or restrictions on their travel to the US. We will be working with the International Students’ Office, the SA+P Dean’s Office and the MIT central administration to ensure the best and most effective way to support as many students as possible. 

For those who have asked us specific questions about their own visa situations, we would encourage you to be in contact with the ISO, which will have the best and most up-to-date information. At the same time, we will also post relevant answers from the ISO as soon as they are available, and in response to any specific questions we receive. 

General Questions:

1. Will deferral be an option, same as provided to students entering the Department of Urban Studies and Planning?

A bit of background! Students are always welcome to take time away from MIT, but our process of approving leaves and deferrals is necessary to ensure that students can come back to the same level of fellowship support they were promised on entry into their programs. Because of the structure of MIT’s funding of departments and student fellowships, it is much harder for us to hold on to and ensure continued financial aid for students in our longer programs like the M.Arch. and Ph.D. because of the escalating effects of deferring financial support over time. As a result, offering a blanket deferral to all students risks damaging our ability to support students remaining at MIT, which we are anxious to avoid.

With that said, individual students are encouraged to inquire regarding deferral options, at any time, and we will approve as many of these requests as possible without compromising continuing support to our student body as a whole. While the official deadline for deferral requests was on June 15, we are always open to communications with students about what is possible in specific and challenging circumstances. If any new deferral or leave requests can be submitted by July 20, it will allow us to be as responsive as possible and to look at requests together to ensure fairness and equity by looking at requests together.

2. I know this is likely an absolute unknown, but has there been any mention of whether the spring semester will be largely online as well?

We are planning for many potential options for the spring semester of 2021; January 2021 is now as far away from us as December 2019 was from today, which is a good reminder that many things can change about the future in ways we cannot expect or anticipate. As in our planning for the fall, our goal is to ensure the best possible educational and creative experience for all our students, while also doing our best to ensure their health and safety. And just like our planning for Fall 2020, our planning process for the spring will involve ongoing collaboration and communication between students, staff, and faculty — as well as building on our experience this fall.

3. Will we have access to studio space to work and what will policies be with wearing a mask (on at all times/on while standing up from desk/or etc)?

From MIT’s Fall 2020 FAQ, (linked here)

Q. What personal protective equipment (PPE) will be required on campus?

All members of the MIT community will be required to wear a face covering. The face covering will need to cover the nose and mouth and should not contain a vent or valve. The Division of Student Life (DSL) will provide students with masks when they move into their residence halls.

Q. When and where will I be required to wear a face covering?

Face coverings are required in all indoor public spaces at MIT. The only place you will be allowed to be without a face covering is in your room, or outdoors when you are six feet from other people.

4. Will COVID testing costs be covered by MIT? Will MIT be implementing a contact-tracing application?

As noted in MIT’s Fall 2020 FAQ (linked here) regular testing, covered by MIT, will be part of access to campus. MIT will also be instituting contact-tracing using staff, not an app-approach. The specific details for non-undergraduates returning to campus for instruction and the use of facilities in research, teaching and making have not yet been elaborated, but they will likely mirror that of both researchers and undergraduates residing on campus. These involve testing for initial access and regular follow-up testing, combined with a daily health attestation. 

5. What kind of hourly employment will be available for the fall semester? 

As much as possible, responsibilities and opportunities for TAs, RAs, and hourly positions will mirror a regular semester. 

6. Could you provide a schedule or a date estimate of the orientation period so that I could plan accordingly for how long I should work full-time until? 

The fall term will begin on September 1, 2020. 

7. As far as I’m concerned, the orientation will have to be virtual. I’m wondering if it will require everybody to be present at the same time? How will you accommodate time zone differences?

The events will be virtual, the other details have yet to be confirmed, but we will be in touch as soon as they are. We will aim for a schedule that accommodates as many students as possible from diverse time zones.