TL;DR: MIT anticipates returning to full on-campus academic and research operations this fall and, with limited exceptions, all undergraduate and graduate students will be expected to be on campus at MIT this fall. MIT is also expecting students to conduct their fall campus-based appointments from on or around campus, as they did pre-pandemic; there will be very limited flexibility for certain students who encounter absolute barriers preventing their return.
We hope your summer is off to a great start. We are writing to update you and provide additional context about very limited exceptions to the requirements for in-person learning and campus-based student appointments for Fall 2021.
First and foremost, we want to acknowledge your continued resilience and understanding in light of the pandemic. It has been a challenging time over the past year-and-a-half and continues to be a difficult situation for many people around the world. Adapting to challenging and changing circumstances while still making academic progress is a remarkable feat. As we transition back to full on-campus operations this fall, we are doing all we can to provide students the necessary information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their plans for the coming academic year.
In brief, the broad principles and decisions made this past spring, in concert with the Deans and with input of other stakeholders, including student leaders, have stayed the same. MIT anticipates returning to full on-campus academic and research operations this fall as outlined in President Reif’s letter to the community in March 2021. This means that, with the exception of students approved for non-resident thesis research or absentia status, students on an approved personal leave, and PhD students who are IvyPlus Exchange Program participants, all undergraduate and graduate students will be expected to be on campus at MIT in order to pursue their academic programs this fall.
In addition, with the exception of appointments that involve remote work or research obligations (e.g. field research, nonresident thesis research or absentia status, IvyPlus Exchange Scholars), MIT is expecting students to conduct their fall campus-based appointments from on or around campus, as they did pre-pandemic. There will be very limited flexibility for students who encounter absolute barriers preventing their return (e.g. visa delays, travel restrictions). More specific details follow.
Requirements for in-person learning
All new students in undergraduate programs, doctoral programs, and research masters programs are expected to arrive before the start of the semester, or, at the latest, by October 4, 2021. Those unable to do so will be required to defer until a later semester. Students should check with their departments on the length of time they may defer. Some excused absences or consideration may be available for those students who arrive late but prior to the October deadline.
For new students in professional masters programs or other graduate-level programs, individual School/College/Programs will decide whether or not they can offer exceptions to in-person learning for those who are unable to arrive on campus due to absolute barriers this fall. If these programs are not able to provide remote learning, the students will be required to defer. Students should check with their departments on the length of time they may defer.
For continuing students in all undergraduate and graduate programs, individual School/College/Programs will handle requests for exceptions to in-person learning (for part or all of the semester) on a case-by-case basis for students who face absolute barriers to returning to campus. If a remote learning option is not possible, continuing students will be required to take a leave of absence.
Requirements for campus-based appointments
For graduate research students who are required to defer their program start dates or take a leave of absence, programs/labs/PIs may appoint such students as unpaid research affiliates to allow them to obtain MIT IDs (if they do not already have them) and to stay informally connected to research groups.
Graduate students who receive an exception to the in-person learning requirement for part or all of the semester (consistent with the above limitations) may, at the discretion of their department/program, be eligible for remote appointments if there are absolute barriers preventing the students from returning to the US. As in prior terms, these appointments will need to be reviewed by the remote international appointments team.
Remote appointments will not be offered for undergraduate students, unless associated with an approved disability accommodation as noted below.
Limited Exceptions Process
For any potential requests for exceptions to the requirements for in-person learning and campus-based appointments:
Absolute barriers are narrow and are limited to situations such as visa delays, travel bans, and border closures, where a student is prevented from travelling to campus. The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in certain regions of the world, such as India, and continuing challenges with obtaining timely visas, will be taken into consideration.
With the return to “full operations” this fall, student disability-based requests (including any disabilities that pose a higher risk of severe infection from COVID) will be managed, per usual, by Disability and Access Services (DAS). This will include any disability-related requests to pursue remote appointments from within the U.S., but outside of Massachusetts. MIT is committed to equal access for students with disabilities and students who need a disability-related accommodation in order to access their academic program or activities. Students should contact DAS directly with such requests.
Keep in mind that MIT announced on April 30, 2021 that every enrolled student must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 30, 2021, or receive a medical or religious exemption. If new or continuing students have concerns or questions about meeting the requirement, including concerns about traveling if unvaccinated, they can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their particular situation. International students who are unable to access the vaccine before their start dates will most likely be able to get vaccinated upon arrival or soon after they arrive. If MIT has vaccines available, they will be immunized on campus. Otherwise they will need to register for an appointment at a pharmacy or through the state. For more details see this FAQ.
In closing, the Institute’s commitment to the community’s health and safety will strengthen our collective protection against the virus and its variants and will better position us to ease many of MIT's Covid-era restrictions and limitations. Together, I am confident that we will restore vibrant life and activity to our campus and fulfill the Institute’s academic and research missions with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor.
As always, whatever your current situation and plans for fall, please reach out to support resources such as Student Supports Services (S3), GradSupport, the International Students Office, and departmental resources to help with your decision-making and planning.
Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education