Residential Pod Program
Updated March 1, 2021
MIT Housing & Residential Services (HRS) has partnered with student leaders, House Teams and staff across the Division of Student Life to develop a Residential Pod Program. As described in a recent letter from Chancellor Barnhart, Vice Chancellor Waitz and Dean Nelson, there are a number of community expectations, including those outlined on the COVID-19 student policy page, that we ask you to be mindful of. Please review the FAQ information below carefully as multiple sections may help address your question(s).
Pod Agreement Form
All students who are participating in the Residential Pod Program will be required to sign a Pod Agreement. Please see FAQ information below for further details.
Pod Start Date
IMPORTANT: While students may begin the pod formation process in late January or early February 2021, pods cannot begin to exercise pod privileges until after residents participate in Quarantine Week “Q-Week” (see DSL website regarding Q-Week extension). Additional information about pod formation will be provided to all Spring 2021 residents by their Area Director (AD).
March 1, 2021 Update: Pod Privileges in Certain Residences Paused
If you have any questions specific to the Residential Pod Program, please contact your AD via email. A list of House Team staff, including the AD, is available on the Guide to Residences website. If you have general housing questions for HRS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pod is a committed group of residents who are able to socialize in certain settings that do not require 6 feet (2 meters) physical distancing, or the use of face coverings. Settings may include students' private rooms, dining, and designated reserved common spaces within the residence hall. Pods may range in size between 2 to 6 residents, and all members must reside in the same residence hall.
The program, which was developed as part of a collaborative effort between the Division of Student Life, DormCon, the Undergraduate Association, House Teams and other campus partners, is grounded in an honor system of self- and mutual- accountability. Students will still be expected to practice personal hygiene practices and will be required to follow all residential and campus COVID-19 policies. Students forming a pod will all sign a Pod Agreement – personalized to the given pod – which outlines community expectations as well as student’s expectations for themselves and each other.
By joining a pod, you are committing to daily health attestations, resident COVID-19 testing requirements and strict adherence to physical distancing and face covering policies with those outside of your pod. Not following these critical health and safety guidelines can put your pod, the MIT campus, and surrounding communities at risk.
#2. Is every undergraduate student required to join a pod?
No. Joining a pod is voluntary and at the discretion of each undergraduate resident.
#3. What is the difference between a pod and the housing preference groups?
The group requests within the Spring 2021 Housing Application relate to requested placement in the same residence hall. Pods, however, are groups of students within the same residence hall who can interact in less-restrictive social settings (see description above). Although residents may choose to create a pod that consists of the same members as their housing preference group, pods are formed by a separate, in-house process. You will have an opportunity to start forming pods in late January or early February 2021, however, pods cannot begin to exercise pod privileges until after Q-Week (extended until February 23 - please see DSL website).
#4. Can you make a pod with friends that are not in your residence hall?
No. Unfortunately, for public health reasons, no visitors from other residence halls or off campus are permitted in undergraduate residence halls at any time. This extends to pod groups as well. All pod members must reside in the same residence hall.
#5. What are the steps for forming a pod?
During Q-Week, you can apply to form a pod with up to five other students who live in your residence hall. The steps to form a pod are as follows:
- The Area Director of each residence hall will send an email describing pods and the specific policies for pods within the residence. Please make sure to read this email carefully as the message will include a link to the Pod Interest Form and a Pod Agreement template.
- One member of the pod will submit the Pod Interest Form, which asks for each pod member’s name, Kerberos ID and room number.
- The pod members will meet virtually with a designated member of their House Team. All members of the pod must attend.
- The pod members, with the help of their House Team (if needed), will finalize their Pod Agreement, sign it, and submit it to their House Team for final review.
- After these steps have been completed and the residence hall’s House Team confirms the Pod Agreement, the pod will then be formed. After pod members receive two negative COVID-19 tests from MIT Medical since arriving on campus, they may begin to exercise pod privileges starting after Q-Week (please see DSL website regarding Q-Week extension).
Residents have the flexibility to form a pod (through the process outlined above) at any time until Friday, May 14.
#6. What is a “pod lounge”? What are pod lounges used for?
A “pod lounge” is a designated area assigned to a specific pod that may be utilized by pod members during the semester. Only registered pod members may use the designated space where they may socialize in a manner consistent with their Pod Agreement (i.e. without a face covering or social distancing).
Cleaning supplies will be made available in pod lounges and it is the responsibility of all pod members to help maintain the cleanliness of the space. Questions regarding cleaning and sanitization may be directed to the House Operations Manager.
#7. Does every residence hall have pod lounges? How are pod lounges assigned?
The availability and assignment process for pod lounges will differ by residence hall based on the available space, occupancy limits, and other health and safety considerations. The type of space used for a pod lounge may also differ – it may be a small lounge or a large empty room within the residence hall. The pod lounge assignment process will vary depending on the residence, but typically it will involve members of the House Team and the Rooming Assignment Committee.
Please contact your House Team to check the availability of pod lounges in your residence hall.
In designated areas, pod members may socialize among each other without the use of face coverings and without the need to physically distance. Settings may include*:
- Students' private rooms;
- Approved dining areas;
- Designated reservable spaces within the residence hall; and
- Pod lounges (where applicable)
*As noted above, these areas may vary by residence hall.
Use of face coverings and physical distancing practices are required whenever pod members are in any public area, regardless of who else is present. The specifics of these rules will be discussed in a pod’s virtual meeting with the House Team prior to the approval of the Pod Agreement.
#9. Can I be a member of multiple pods?
- No. For public health reasons, students are restricted to membership in one pod. However, you may still interact with another pod while all are maintaining proper physical distancing, wearing face coverings and adhering to other COVID-19 student policies.
#10. What should you do if your significant other is not in your pod?
If your significant other is not in your pod, you will be required to physically distance when you see each other regardless of where they live on or off campus. Maintaining this distance is critical to the health and safety of the MIT community and the surrounding area.
If you and your significant other are in the same residence hall but not in the same pod, you may apply to join the same pod as long as membership within the pod does not exceed six people. You also have the option to form your own two-person pod. Additional information about changing your pod is available below.
If having a distanced relationship is difficult for you, MIT has resources that can help. The Support Services section on the DSL website contains many useful links, and by contacting email@example.com or MIT Student Mental Health & Counseling you can receive advice specific to your situation.
#11. What do you do if someone in your pod tests positive for COVID-19?
In the event that a member of the pod tests positive for COVID-19, all pod members must immediately self-quarantine in their individual rooms and await further instructions from MIT Medical. Pod members must also adhere to the applicable terms of the Pod Agreement.
#12. Who should you contact to help resolve conflicts in pods?
If you are having problems with a member of your pod, see if you can resolve the issue(s) among yourselves first. Try talking with the members directly and point to language of the Pod Agreement if applicable. If you’re unsure how to approach this, consult with your GRA or AD to ask for some tips. If the issue persists, consider working with pod members to add agreed-upon language to the Pod Agreement to prevent future instances of the same problem.
If speaking with the pod member(s) directly does not solve the problem, or they are unwilling to listen to your ideas, you should contact a member of your House Team. They are trained to help in situations such as this.
The MIT Ombuds Office is a confidential and independent resource for all members of the MIT community to constructively manage concerns and conflicts related to your experience at MIT. They can support you by helping to analyze your concerns and identify options to constructively manage conflicts.
#13. How does traveling and returning to your pod work?
All members of the MIT community are expected to follow the travel policies outlined on the MIT NOW website and undergraduate residents should pay particular attention to the COVID-19 student policy regarding travel. Bear in mind that when you decide to go off campus you are potentially exposing yourself and your pod mates to COVID-19. You should discuss off-campus travel before signing your Pod Agreements and be sure to register your travel, if applicable.
If a student leaves New England, or travels to a New England state that is not designated as “lower risk” by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the student will be required to meet Massachusetts and MIT requirements. This means the resident must:
- Go to an MIT Medical testing facility immediately upon returning to campus for a COVID-19 test (if after hours and testing is unavailable, students must quarantine in their room and must test during the next available testing period);
- Quarantine immediately upon returning to campus, which includes separation from a student’s pod;
- Take a second COVID-19 test seven days after the first test; AND
- Remain in quarantine until a second negative COVID-19 test result is confirmed.
At present, if a student takes a day trip to a local New England area (i.e. only those states that are designated as “lower risk” by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) and takes appropriate precautions (e.g. wears a face covering, practices physical distancing), then quarantine for seven days is not necessary.
Please note that travel guidance and restrictions are subject to change as COVID-19 cases increase or decrease in various parts of the country. Students should always refer to the MIT COVID-19 Return to Campus website for the most up-to-date guidance.
#14. How do I leave my pod?
To leave your pod, contact your AD and ask that your name be removed from the Pod Agreement. By doing so, you agree to no longer interact with the other members of the pod group without maintaining physical distance and wearing a face covering, to not enter into the pod lounge (if applicable), and to not engage in any behavior with them that is allowed only within a pod.
#15. What is pod switching and what is the process to switch pods?
Pod switching is the action of changing your pod from one pod to another. The guidelines for pod switching are:
- The pod you are switching into must consist of students from the same residence hall that you have been assigned to.
- The pod size after switches occur may not exceed 6 students.
The steps to changing your pod include:
- Email your Area Director and inform them that you wish to change pods. Within the email, please include the members of your previous pod and the members of your requested pod. If you are requesting to form a new pod, please submit a new response to the Pod Interest Form.
- After informing and receiving approval from your Area Director to change pods, you will self-quarantine for seven days and take two COVID-19 tests during this period. Both of these test results must be negative for you to begin interacting with your new pod.
- During the seven-day self-quarantine period, you will have a Zoom meeting with all members of your new pod and a member of the House Team. The students have the choice to either draft a new Pod Agreement, keep the same Pod Agreement (as determined by the existing members of the pod the student is switching into), or to add amendments to the original Pod Agreement. The Pod Agreement for the new pod must be signed by all current members to take effect.
- After successfully joining your new pod, your Area Director will remove your name from your previous pod.
If any of the above steps are not completed, you have not successfully joined a new pod.
#16. Will there be opportunities to meet other residents to form a pod?
Each house will conduct outreach and/or programming for residents who would like to form pods but do not yet have a group established. Students can expect a communication about this after receiving their Spring 2021 building assignment. Also, as a reminder, there is no deadline to form a pod – residents may do so at any time after the application opens, including after "Q-Week" and during the semester until May 14, 2021.
#17. I heard the maximum number of pod members could increase- is this true?
At this time, students should expect the size of pods for the Spring 2021 semester will be limited to six members. Similar to other campus policies, the Division of Student Life (DSL) is closely monitoring the trajectory of the virus in conjunction with the latest public health guidance. If conditions allow for increasing the size of pods from six to eight members, DSL will adjust policies accordingly in collaboration with student leaders.
#18. Will the pod program be available for undergraduate Site 4 residents?
#19. I live in a double. What does this mean for my pod plans?
Residents of double-occupancy rooms must be members of the same pod, and may add up to four additional podmates. If the residents of a double do not wish to form a pod with any additional students, they are still encouraged to register as a pod of two and complete the pod meeting and Pod Agreement, in the interest of facilitating a safe and comfortable living environment.