MIT makes plans for a quieter campus

The University Times

With thousands now working and learning off-campus, the Institute aims to consolidate its footprint and conserve resources.

Steve Bradt | MIT News Office
March 22, 2020

With thousands of MIT students and employees now engaged in working and learning off-campus as part of the Institute’s response to Covid-19, a newly formed Campus Space Planning Working Group is developing a framework to temporarily manage access to MIT’s buildings.

This framework is the latest step in MIT’s efforts — ongoing for several weeks now — to safeguard the health of faculty, staff, and students by promoting social distancing and minimizing the density of the on-campus population.

Focusing MIT’s support services on its active buildings will also help essential staff who remain on campus — including employees of MIT Facilities and the MIT Police — take care of those facilities that remain in operation, and protect the safety and security of those who are still living and working on campus.

“This effort is part of a phased plan that reduces the number of buildings operating with full support services,” says Associate Provost Krystyn Van Vliet, co-chair of the Campus Space Planning Working Group. “At the same time that we are temporarily redefining the campus footprint, we aim to maintain safe campus operations and sufficient access by the MIT community to ensure the Institute’s academic, research, and business continuity for all of us.”

A plan for consolidated operations

As of today, some buildings on campus are already secured and inaccessible to the MIT community — such as the Stratton Student Center (Building W20). By this Wednesday, March 25, MIT aims to limit access to most buildings across campus, and streamline support services in many buildings that are now in limited use. All residence halls housing students will continue to be fully supported.

Buildings will remain accessible to four previously identified groups: critical research personnel; those involved in scheduled recording of academic lectures; essential personnel from departments such as MIT Facilities, MIT Police, MIT Medical, MIT Dining, and MIT Environment, Health, and Safety; and vendors supporting critical research infrastructure.

Beyond these groups, individual campus buildings will remain accessible to MIT community members who request and receive approvals from department heads, deans, or other senior administrators. These campus leaders will soon receive guidance on this facilitated access.  

The new approach will continue to provide access for MIT community members who need it, and for those who help steward those buildings’ operation. Members of the MIT community who are not in the four key groups described above, and who have not received special permission from campus leaders, will need to have their MIT IDs when on campus, to identify themselves to MIT Police and other personnel. They will be expected to comply with social distancing guidelines while on campus. Individuals who are not holders of MIT IDs will be asked to leave campus buildings.

“While this change in campus access may feel like an inconvenience for some of us, these unusual times require a shared understanding that typical use of our buildings depends on significant efforts by behind-the-scenes staff teams,” Van Vliet says. 

“In the current climate, we are focused on balancing the well-being of our workforce and the need to maintain critical Institute operations,” adds Joe Higgins, vice president for campus services and stewardship and co-chair of the Campus Space Planning Working Group. “Many adjustments have been made regarding how we carry out our work — to promote social distancing, enhance cleaning methods, manage materials, enhance security, control access, and implement regular check-ins for limited-use buildings. While security, fire, water, and infrastructure alarms in all buildings will continue to be managed and monitored, we are implementing best practices in energy management for limited-use buildings that will help the Institute conserve resources.”

The campus access framework provides several campus locations for MIT community members who need “quiet space” for individual study, online meetings, or to record lectures. Clear guidance to the MIT community on this facilitated access will be provided in the coming days.

Emergency housing for students

Approximately 245 undergraduates who received exemptions and remain on campus have been assigned emergency housing in three dormitories: Maseeh Hall, McCormick Hall, and Baker House. These students are moving into their emergency housing this weekend, with support from MIT staff.

A fourth undergraduate dormitory, Burton-Conner House, has been designated for students — including those who live off-campus, in the Boston area — who may need quarantine (due to exposure, risk factors, or symptoms) or isolation (for those who have tested positive and need care, but whose condition is not severe enough to require hospital care). This facility will be staffed with medical professionals to assist in these students’ recoveries.

“Our goal is to support those students who remain with dining options, as well as expert in-house medical care, should they become ill,” says Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “We are making every effort to care for those students who remain with us during this public health crisis.”

In keeping with advice from public health officials, all students in MIT emergency housing will be dispersed as widely as possible, minimizing the density of occupancy, and will be encouraged to practice social distancing.

The University Times

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