Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S.
August 14, 2020
Letter from the MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor
Update: Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Due to the circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic, in May MIT announced a new process for allowing eligible students to proceed with anticipated summer and/or fall appointments from outside the US. Since then, MIT has approved roughly 296 graduate student appointments and 113 undergraduate student appointments under this framework. Given the fluid situation relating to Covid-19, our experience this summer, and the evolving external guidance on remote international appointments, we are writing to you to explain the ways we are modifying our approach for fall term.
We acknowledge that we are two weeks away from the start of the fall term, but these modifications required thorough and detailed consideration because the issues are complex. Ultimately, our goal was to find an optimal solution that best serves our community while minimizing the risks and burdens for all involved.
For graduate students, MIT will continue to use the same general process that was in place this summer. This process includes a list of general eligibility criteria, submission of an intake form, review by a team of representatives from several MIT offices, and decision by the Dean and/or the Vice President for Research. Additional information about the process, along with some FAQs, are available online: https://covid-team2020.mit.edu/remote-appointments.
Continuing Students: The vast majority of continuing graduate students will be able to proceed with their appointments as planned. In rare cases, some RA/TA appointments will need to be converted to non-service fellowships or otherwise modified as a result of the nature of the student’s research, the country where the appointment would be conducted, or other factors. In cases where continuing students’ RA/TA appointments are converted to non-service fellowships, to the greatest extent possible, departments will be expected to move these specific students from RA/TA appointments to non-service fellowships held by the departments. If that is not possible, departments should work with their School deans, who will then work with the Provost’s office, to identify central funds to support the non-service fellowship appointment. In all cases, MIT will continue to support the tuition subsidy.
New Students: The vast majority of (if not all) new graduate students on fellowships will be able to proceed with their appointments as planned. Due to the specific rules and requirements in each foreign country, new students with RA/TA appointments in some countries will generally be permitted to proceed as intended. However, new students with RA/TA appointments in other countries must have their RA/TA appointments converted to non-service fellowships. As with continuing student appointments, new student appointments will also be reviewed for issues relating to research area, compliance with export control requirements, and other matters. In cases where new students’ RA/TA appointments are converted to non-service fellowships, to the greatest extent possible, here again, departments will be expected to move these specific students from RA/TA appointments to non-service fellowships held by the departments. If that is not possible, departments should work with their School deans, who will then work with the Provost’s office, to identify central funds to support the non-service fellowship appointment. In all cases, MIT will continue to support the tuition subsidy.
Note: Non-service fellowships do not include a service requirement and, therefore, RA/TA responsibilities may not be required for these students as a condition of receiving fellowship funds. A TA appointment may still, however, be an academic program requirement. DLCs may need to identify and fund other students to perform RA/TA responsibilities.
Due to international tax and compliance issues, unfortunately MIT is not able to offer paid UROPs or other hourly wage opportunities such as graders or TA roles (regardless of funding source) to undergraduate students who are not physically located in the United States. Note: UROPs may not be paid by stipend.
Students living abroad, however, may apply for a credit-only UROP in Fall 2020, and may participate in paid UROPs upon their return to campus in Spring 2021 or later. Further, students may pursue a non-UROP experiential learning opportunity (such as remote K12 tutoring or public service) paid by stipend. During AY21, undergraduate students are eligible to earn up to $1900 per year by participating in an experiential learning opportunity. For further details visit http://elo.mit.edu.
All credit-only UROPs and experiential learning opportunities being conducted by undergraduate students living abroad will be subject to a similar review process as utilized for graduate student appointments (see above and visit https://covid-team2020.mit.edu/remote-appointments for more information). Intake forms for these students will be collected and submitted on behalf of the students by the unit that is responsible for that experiential learning opportunity. In the coming weeks and months, we will work to further streamline the review of experiential learning opportunities.
On behalf of the MIT Senior Leadership, I want to thank all of the students, administrators and faculty who have demonstrated incredible patience as we have developed and operated the framework for enabling remote appointments. It has not been easy, but we have a strong way forward.
If any department administrator has questions about these processes, they can send their questions to email@example.com. Given the anticipated volume of questions, we ask that administrators please collect and combine any questions they receive directly from students before submitting them.
Finally, be aware that this review framework does not apply to students (either international or domestic students) who are performing the duties of their paid appointments within the U.S. Departmental administrators should proceed with those appointments per their usual procedures. However, all students with appointments should be instructed to provide updated address information through WebSIS and updated direct deposit information through Atlas.
Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education
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June 8, 2020
Letter from the Office of the Vice Chancellor
As you may have heard from your departments, the UROP Office, or your peers, MIT recently issued guidelines for student appointments for work or research conducted outside the U.S. After speaking with student leaders earlier this week, I realized that many of you have questions about the motivations for, and implementation of, the guidelines. I am writing today to offer some clarity.
Given the campus access restrictions and other factors related to Covid-19, we anticipated that students with paid appointments would soon be working or conducting research from foreign countries. At the request of School Deans and other community members, we decided that MIT needed a framework for enabling these appointments in keeping with the following key objectives:
- Promoting MIT’s research enterprise and academic mission;
- Supporting the financial needs and personal objectives of MIT students;
- Protecting confidential, sensitive, and controlled research data; and
- Abiding by various legal, foreign country compliance, and regulatory requirements.
We have updated our FAQs to provide more context and clarity, and I encourage anyone with questions to read them here.
There are a few key points in the FAQs that student leaders asked me to underscore in this message:
- We understand that many students have many different types of reasons for leaving the U.S. during this difficult time. And we want to permit as many appointments as possible to proceed from abroad if the work can be accomplished remotely. The review group will approach every appointment with the goal of approving it. And when obstacles arise, they will work with the relevant DLC/programs to see if the appointment can proceed with modifications. In short, we will take a problem-solving approach and will not be denying remote international appointments unless they pose significant risks or obstacles to a student or the Institute.
- The review process for remote international appointments will be conducted as quickly as possible, generally within seven business days of receiving the request.
- We understand that, in some cases, students may need to travel for emergencies. We will work to ensure that emergency travel does not disrupt a student’s appointment or academic progress.
There is one other point that I believe is important to stress here: international travel at this moment comes with some unique complexities and risks. If you are an international student who is considering departing the U.S. this summer or fall, I strongly urge you to consult with your advisor in the International Students Office. They can help you weigh the pros and cons, and arrive at a solution that is in your best interest.
If you have any questions about the remote appointment process, please contact your department administrator who will work with the appointment review team to help answer any questions you may have.
Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education