News Article

A message to graduate students from Suzy Nelson

A message to graduate students from Suzy Nelson

February 20, 2020

Dear MIT students,

I hope the start of the semester is going well for you. The Division of Student Life (DSL) is working on many priorities, and I’m writing to share some highlights and important policy updates.

I also want to invite you to weekly office hours with DSL deans every Friday from 11:00 am to noon in 4-110. Hang out with a therapy pup, get a snack, and chat with me and the deans.

Making the Student Center a Hub for WellbeingThere’s a lot of work underway on two interconnected topics—promoting student wellbeing and revitalizing the Student Center. We believe the Student Center should become a hub for student wellbeing programs and activities. Stakeholders from across MIT met with students and campus planners to discuss high-level ideas last month—I can tell you that the ideas are really exciting, and they include providing healthy and tasty food options and offering more wellbeing activities like yoga, dance, and meditation. We also want to create spaces for students to connect and to relax. We hope to replicate the successful fifth-floor Athena Cluster lounge renovation, including creating an open floor plan, colorful soft furniture, and bright walls throughout the Student Center. I’ll update you as plans progress.

Community ClimateChancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Provost Martin Schmidt, and other senior leaders emailed the community with an update on the steps we are taking to create a better MIT, one where all students, faculty, and staff feel welcome and have a sense of belonging. With the NASEM working group’s recommendations in hand, we are going to make advancements in several areas, including accountability and transparency; education, advocacy, and support; and shared values. I encourage you to contribute ideas and to get involved in the implementation process by emailing

Housing We’re opening two student residences in the same year—New Vassar Street on west campus for undergraduates and Site 4 in Kendall Square for grad students. I know the recent news about Site 4 rental rates and subsequent questions about affordable graduate student housing options has raised concerns. We are working closely with current Eastgate residents and providing the resources necessary to those who need help so that the transition to Site 4 is more affordable. And, as in past years, next year’s graduate student stipend-setting process will take into account increases in cost-of-living expenses. The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) and DSL will work collaboratively with the Graduate Student Council to highlight the needs associated with rising housing expenses when new stipend rates are discussed with senior leadership. This work will complement our efforts to develop financial and other support resources for students in financial distress and for helping graduate students with children.

Ultimately, the house teams, OVC, DSL, and Housing and Residential Services (HRS) are here to help. Please come to the DSL deans’ Friday office hours from 11:00 am to noon in 4-110 if you want to discuss your situation.

Dining and Food Over the past year, a working group has been reviewing our current meal plans, gathering feedback, and making recommendations on next steps. Please read more about this work here and and join DormCon and staff from DSL and MIT Dining at a campus forum at 6 pm on March 2 in the Coffee House Lounge on the third floor of the Student Center. The conversation will focus on a proposed phased approach to making changes to the plan.second working group is looking at providing better retail food options in the Student Center as well.

Remember - If you need some assistance with food or other necessities, please visit the Graduate Residential Life section of DSL’s website to learn about options such as family food grants and SwipeShare. Don’t forget TechMart at-cost grocery store on the second floor of Walker Memorial (click here to see their spring hours). Dean Naomi Carton is DSL’s point person for supporting graduate students, so reach out to her directly at if you need additional guidance.

Also, in the coming weeks, HRS is installing dispensers for menstrual hygiene products in public restrooms of each residence hall; please read the page on MHH’s website and submit feedback through their online form.

Covid-19 – I want to express my sincere thanks to our students who chose to self-isolate as a precaution, and I am grateful to our staff who are providing them with amazing support. Fortunately, the process that includes required travel registration form and self-isolating have helped -- the risk to the MIT community remains low. DSL, MIT Medical, and others across campus continue working to protect the MIT community’s health and safety. If you have any questions, please contact And please remember that everyone in the community can help each other stay healthy by following these flu-prevention steps, by knowing what to do if you start to feel sick, and by monitoring for updates. Take good care of yourself!

Policies and Updates — Your health and safety matter most to me, so please take a minute to check out the Mind and Hand Book. It contains our Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act statement as well other important information including:

DSL DevelopmentsI’m trying a different design for my message this semester, replacing the tl;dr with a more easily scannable email overview. If you have suggestions or ideas about how to make my communications better, email

Finally, please welcome Dr. G. Anthony Grant to MIT as athletic director and head of DAPER. Anthony brings new energy and enthusiasm to a program that Julie Soriero reshaped over the last 13 years into one of the most successful in NCAA Division III. Please join me in welcoming Anthony to campus.

Whether this is your first or final semester at MIT, you are always welcome in 4-110 for regular office hours or any day of the week to drop by for a snack and chat with our wonderful staff. The same mission motivates all DSL staff—“We are here for students”—and we want to see and hear from you!


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