Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
MIT moves all classes online for the rest of the semester (web.mit.edu)
1027 points by ryeights on March 10, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 586 comments

I think large decisive moves like this may seem to some to be an overreaction, but it will prove to be the correct decision in hindsight (like the early travel bans). Exponential growth is real, and anything we can do to slow the rate of infection will save lives.

As a current undergrad at UC Berkeley, they've moved all classes here online [1], and exams are either being postponed or converted to take-home assignments. I'm currently accessing lectures through Zoom.

[1] https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/03/09/as-coronavirus-spreads-...

Actually, I think it's likely going to be seen as an overreaction in hindsight by the general public (even though it may not be).

If these actions are successful in curbing the virus' spread, most people won't appreciate how bad things could have really gotten.

It's a common thread in Incident Response & "Resilience Engineering" that preventative measures that reduce the blast of incidents are always blamed, especially if they work. Whatever ends up working to fix the incident, you should have done it sooner or it was too drastic a response. (No matter the fact that it _did_ fix the incident, outsiders will blame you that way).

One example is the Knight Capital trading disaster, where they eventually noticed (I don't remember the exact number) X minutes after the runway trading bot had been put into place, and shut it down, but got blamed for not shutting down the trading soon enough.

Can't find any links about this right now though :(

I see this in Programming/IT a lot. Also a very similar case whereby the person fixing the issue gets pressure to complete the fix and even blame after the fact.

It would be like going to doctor and blaming the doctors for why I was sick.

> It would be like going to doctor and blaming the doctors for why I was sick.

To be fair, I am sure doctors experience that a lot.

It depends. I blame the dentist that fixed my tooth in a substandard way and then I had to have it removed, because the bad fix had it broken a couple of years down the line.

I also blame him because, over the years, other patients of him had trouble for his sloppy work.

I absolutely praise the dentist I went after that one, who made his best to fix everything, explained me the pros and cons of every decision he made, and ultimately got me top notch (as best as could be done).

Sorry for he weird "counterpoint", but the example could be open to ambiguity. I still get the point: don't blame the guy fixing things when it's someone elses responsibility.

In my case: I'd be wrong to blame the 2nd dentist for the mistakes of the 1st.

Sure, I just wanted to say that the criticized behavior of blaming the problem on the person that is trying to solve it is something that also happen to doctor. Simply to say that it is not a prerogative of programming or safety.

Sure, and in retrospective my answer was a bit more to gp than to you.

I'm reminded of year 2000. Yes complete overreaction, but I'm also certain it would not have been such a non-event if it weren't for that extreme attention it got.

Most of the bad things predicted by the media wouldn't have happened even if no effort was spent. However there would have been a lot of things not predicted by the media that would have been bad. The bad things the media predicted were easy to put into a sentence, while the bad things that would have happened would take books to explain. They would only really be bad because of the sum total happening all at once.


Everyday people in the leadup to y2k assumed it meant that every computer would somehow explode. Almost nobody stopped to actually reason through the real life consequence of a program getting the date and time wrong.

You mean Y2K? Yeah I remember there was even a Simpson episode about it being absolute chaos (one of the Tree House Horror episodes). And then pretty much "nothing happened" (a few ATMs here and there spitting money randomly, a few funny incidents, but nothing of scale) and the world thought IT people had been paranoid over nothing.

Fast forward to 2020, we still have Feb 29 bugs around (I saw a few posted on twitter, none in person). The response back then was huge and adequate, but totally underappreciated as time went by.

One of the Feb 29 bugs I saw this year was that when I logged on to Skype for Business Monday March 2nd, everyone in my company that had logged off their computers on Friday Feb 28th, had a message about being offline for anywhere between 20-40 days. It just didn't know how to handle that day.

There is one thing that will help avoid some of this: across every county, state, and nation, there will be differing levels of response, and when it's all over it will be clear who got their medical systems overwhelmed as a result of denialism, and who wasted a bunch of money due to alarmism.

"Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate" --M. Leavitt DHHS

Yeah, I've been thinking something similar.

In the American context, a successful response would be seen by the uninformed as an overreaction. The administration responsible (federal or state) would be blamed for the economic damage and voted out.

It would take a very strong leader who was willing to act without thought to reelection to really meet the crisis head on. That would be ... rare.

>a successful response would be seen by the uninformed as an overreaction

This is what worries me the most. Is there a name for this bias? Seems similar to survivorship bias, I'm sure it's seen across all kinds of contexts.

Have you thought about inverting your thinking? Every pandemic this century ended up being a damp squib despite WHO et al promising doomsday.

Did they end up being a "damp squib", or were corrective and protective measures implemented to slow them sufficiently so as to control them before they became endemic?

It may be that when the Boy Cried Wolf, the wolf didn't show up precisely because the villagers had turned out with torches and successfully scared it away, unseen.

Damp squib

And your rationale for that characterization is...?

The WHO predicted that 150 million people would be killed by avian flu [1]. Nothing happened. They predicted 750,000 people would die in the UK, it was more like 200. For swine flu it was minimum possible deaths of 11k but up to 70k. It was more like 400. They got upset when people wouldn't use their case fatality rates which turned out very wrong. Over half a million people died of flu related deaths last year. Don't recall reading a single news article about it

1, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/emergency....

2, https://jech.bmj.com/content/62/6/555.abstract

He is all over these threads downplaying the seriousness of this virus, best to just ignore him.

I'm aware. That's why I responded to him. Because it's better to confront this kind of mendacity.

Was it the WHO promising doomsday? Or the media reporting on it?


>a successful response would be seen by the uninformed as an overreaction.

Seems likely. Since solving the problem would make it look like there was no problem in which case what was the point of all the work.

This is also one of those cases where you have to overreact to begin with because once you have an actual problem its too late.

Places like Singapore and Taiwan have had successful responses and the locals seem happy with them. The US response re testing is just awful. (I've just read the NYT article https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/us/coronavirus-testing-de...)

I think you're right, and that economic damage is something I think too many people are worried about. I've seen a lot of business magazines more worried about the dow-jones than the number of people who could die.

So what do we do if this virus festers for another couple of years? We can't shut down society forever.

The goal at this point should be to flatten the curve as much as possible to prevent overwhelming healthcare until a vaccine is developed and tested. Nobody thinks this is going to be a permanent measure.

Or even just more personal protective gears for medical personnel, more isolation wards, and more ventilators could be readied. The medical system can be built up and reconfigured to take care of this disease but it needs time.

A good analysis on this point from a public health perspective: https://www.flattenthecurve.com/

I don't disagree with the flattening the curve bit, but I do wonder - my understanding is that a vaccine is at minimum a year out. Would we need to keep doing this for that entire time period, or are there other factors at play here?

I think that there is a rough relation between the infection rate and the percent of the population that gets infected.

Consider raw r0 of 3.0. Each case infects three other people. But as more and more of the population gets infected and acquires immunity the infection rate drops. Say half the population is immune due to prior infection. The rate is now half r0 = 3.0 * 0.5 Left unchecked 66% of the population will get infected and then the disease dies out.

Social distancing, hand washing, quarantine reduces r0. And reduces the total number that the virus can infect before is dies out. Cut r0 from 3.0 to 1.5 and the number of infected goes from 66% to 33%.

In the US that would be 100 million people. And maybe a million fewer deaths.

Scuttlebutt is China and Taiwan due to high early compliance have r0 down to about 0.3, which means the epidemic is in a state of exponential crash.

There are shortages in the supply chain; hand sanitizer, masks, and tests for coronavirus in addition to overwhelming hospitals by sick people. If there aren't open beds or staff (ideally who aren't overworked), people who otherwise would get medical attention will die.

If a vaccine wasn't even in the picture flattening the curve would help with these things.

That's a good point. Also, my understanding is that antiviral medications might be an option in a "few" months.

There are a lot of things in the future. Antivirals show promise of working in a few months - but we don't actually know they will work (or for that matter that the virus won't evolve a new unique resistance to them). It will take time to figure out what works best for treatment.

They can just slow it down and prevent hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed. A lot of people will get immunity to it, which should confer some herd immunity that will protect older people.

They’re eventually going to lift quarantines after it burns out in different areas.

Maybe there will be vaccines, better treatment.

In this case though we've examples of how bad it can get. Iran comes to mind. As this progresses we'll see what happens to countries who didn't attempt any quarantine or drastic measures at all.

That won't be the US though which is already quietly quarantining things. Conferences are being postponed. Companies are stopping all non-emergency travel. Nursing homes are not allowing visitors.

Hopefully, we'll see articles like the recent articles talking about how closing schools during the 1918 flu saved lives. Specifically, closing schools before there were any identified cases were much more effective than waiting until one was detected.

So a Y2K style hindsight? I wonder if there is a phrase for that type of thing.

"Closing the barn door after the horses have left" ?

Closing the barn door before the horses leave and being blamed for the barn being too warm is actually what is happening.

It depends on how bad it gets, if people are dying by the thousand I think the conventional wisdom will be we should have done more. Even with these measures I fear it wont be nearly enough to avert catastrophe.


Is this an accepted view among historians? I'd like to know more about that.

There was a widespread, mostly inaccurate perception in the West that Japan's incredible territory gains early in the war must have been due to fifth-column agents preparing the battleground.


Hum. On the other side it is the story of the madman holding an umbrella in the middle of the summer. Someone asks him why he is holding an umbrella, it's not raining. He answers that it is to keep pink elephants from flying around. But there aren't any pink elephant flying. The madman responds: you see, it works.

It should be noted that they have not moved lab classes online. For someone in the sciences, much of your classroom time is spent in lab classes. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good way to teach students how to run a gel, or do a titration, or identify minerals, etc. without in-person instruction.

There are students who are graduating this spring and the skills they learn in upper division or capstone lab classes are some of the most important skills they will learn at school. You can’t just cancel the classes (or those students won’t graduate), you can’t do a very good job at all teaching them online... What can you do? We haven’t figured it out here at my institution, and it looks like nobody else has figured it out.

Nor will in-person, small group seminars be moved on-line. It might be fairer to just extend spring break for 2-3 months, and pick up the semester again in May or June.

Or, refund this semesters’s tuition, room, and board, and give everyone a do-over until next fall. (I am assuming the virus will burn out in 2-3 months.)

Maybe the best outcome would be radically improve remote learning, this time with full institutional support.

> I am assuming the virus will burn out in 2-3 months.

This is a really optimistic assumption. I hope you're right, but I would hope no political unit is making plans based on it.

Actually, that's extremely pessimistic. Unchecked exponential growth until it slams in to the population ceiling is both the worst-case scenario for fatalities, and also the scenario that would finish in three months.

Assuming that immunity lasts for an extended period or indefinitely, which we have no way of knowing yet.

Apparently during the Spanish flu cities that closed their schools early had 1/2 as many deaths as cities that waited until the first confirmed cars showed up in their city.

So far, I've heard that UCSD, UCSC, UC Davis, and Stanford have taken similar precautions to Berkeley.

UC Irvine as well!

Not excited to install a rootkit on my computer to take finals, but oh well.

Any option to install it onto a VM or a separate drive for dual boot? Windows 10 VMs are active for a few weeks (or edu discounts are often pretty steep). If it was in a VM you otherwise use you can snapshot and revert back after taking the test (I guess you could do this with a normal backup, too). That's usually my go-to for stuff like this (but for me it's often Linux/macOS).

VMs and Linux aren't allowed, and apparently the software can detect if you're using either. I'm probably gonna use my macbook for it, but I just hate willingly installing such garbage.


Perhaps partition your hard drive then and dual boot? Then reclaim the Windows partition after the program is no longer needed.

Requires Adobe Flash? What is this garbage?

Can you pretend to exclusively use a Chromebook as your computing device?

What does the rootkit even achieve? People can easily have a second laptop available.

I took a quick glance at their website and it says:

"No non-religious head coverings"

Which makes me think that they record a video of you while you're taking it, which is kind of eerie.

That being said, it won't stop anyone who has a USB webcam you can just unplug, unless the software requires you to have a webcam plugged in and pointed in the right direction.

For higher value tests:

- Someone will watch you

- The entire session is recorded

- You hold up multiple forms of ID and rotate it / tilt it

- It's effectively a keylogger + mouse tracker + eye tracker + ..., basically malware

- Triggering any security features like looking "to the side or down" will result in human intervention asking you to do a 360 degree view of your room

- You are not permitted to cover or pause the video stream and you may be randomly asked to do things like blink or hold up fingers

- Yes, they can remote control your device

No need to unplug when a piece of tape or folded paper will do it. I'd be more worried about the microphone.

Unless maybe the requirement is to catch you looking elsewhere?

Or a phone...

Also true for the California State universities and community colleges in the bay area.

UCSB has joined that list as well.

+University of Washington

This might normally be true, but in this case, there will be some countries that overreact and some that don't. The ones that do will see what happened in the ones that don't and it will be harder for the former to be upset since they can observe the difference.

Israel is the best example right now. They have the strongest reaction of any country, essentially closing their borders, but their people don't seem to be outraged, at least not yet.

Security measures are always an "overreaction", until they aren't.

One of my coworkers daughters is affected by this.

The big question this begs:

If there is no refund being offered for the content shifting online from in-person, why have in-person at all?

Is room and board going to be refunded?

If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all? Edit: Understood that infinite sized classes aren't workable for human intensive grading, interactions, etc.

I don't think anyone believes online is an acceptable substitute to a traditional MIT education, but it's a lot better than nothing, and better than continuing the in person teaching.

I'm an MIT grad and know the benefits of being on campus. In fact I spent more time in the lab than I did in classes or my dorm and that just isn't possible online.

My son's school (Courant) has sent everyone home too, with online substitute, but like MIT that only really works for undergrads.

I would have flunked out of Caltech without constant "troll sessions" with fellow students in the dorm helping each other understand the homework problems.

If I was in that situation today, I'd prefer the semester be outright cancelled and replaced with a summer semester.

Not to mention that many students will lose study time dealing with the move, and may likely end up performing poorer than they would have otherwise.

I hope MIT really does take this stuff on a case by case basis. The student who can relocate and be back on their feet in a day will be at an advantage compared to the student who takes longer to settle from the shuffle.

Hopefully everything is graded on a curve to at least minimize the performance effects

Grading on a curve is nice, but it defeats the purpose of having a standard.

There’s no such thing as an objective standard. Professors change, course materials change, and as with here, circumstances can be different. That’s why we use a curve.

Caltech institute policy was no grading on a curve. The standard was to be decided on in advance. If half the students failed an exam (which happened) so be it. If half aced it, so be it as well.

Stack ranking in employee evaluations is unfair, and is the same thing as curve grading.

Stack rankings and curves aren’t anywhere close to the same.

Grading on a curve allows everyone to get a perfect score. Stack ranking means that if everyone is perfect only one person can get a perfect score.

They are in fact opposites.

Also, if half the class fails, that is a teaching failure, not a student failure. The teacher failed to teach the material and/or failed to write a good test.

At Berkeley, if 1/2 the class failed, the professor usually wasn’t allowed to teach that class anymore.

> Stack rankings and curves aren’t anywhere close to the same.

Sure they are. The best get a raise/A, the worst get fired/F.

> that is a teaching failure, not a student failure

Let's put it another way. Do you want the pilot flying you across the Atlantic 747 to be graded on a curve where he happened to be better than some of the other students, or graded against "met the standard / did not meet the standard"?

Me, I want "met the standard" every time for someone I trust with my life. The teacher failing to teach is not a reason to pass a pilot who didn't meet the standard.

> > Stack rankings and curves aren’t anywhere close to the same.

> Sure they are. The best get a raise/A, the worst get fired/F.

That's actually not at all how stack ranking works. The best might get an A, or a B or a C, and the worst might get a B or a C or a D or an F.

An example: You give a test that is out of 120 points. Here are the scores:

P1 = 100

P2 = 99

P3 = 98

P4 = 97

P5 = 96

Under a curve grading, they all get A's. Under objective grading, they all get B's. With stack ranking:

P1 = A

P2 = B

P3 = C

P4 = D

P5 = F

Should P5 be given an F or get fired? That's what happens in stack ranking.

> Let's put it another way. Do you want the pilot flying you across the Atlantic 747 to be graded on a curve where he happened to be better than some of the other students, or graded against "met the standard / did not meet the standard"?

A pilot is not the same as your undergrad physics class. The pilot was taught by instructor who has to teach in a specific way, often using specific words, developed over many years by a committee of pilots. They then take a test that 100s have taken over many years, written by a committee of pilots.

The pilot instructor has very little leeway on how they teach the class and has no leeway in the test.

Same with medical boards, or any other standardized test.

But your physics professor probably wrote the curriculum themselves, teach it a different way every semester, and use a slightly different test every time.

And as much as you wish it were true, none of your undergrad classes are life or death scenarios.

So yeah, it makes sense to grade on a curve for an undergrad class.

> Under a curve grading, they all get A's.

I think you misunderstand what curve grading is.

> none of your undergrad classes are life or death scenarios.

Except that bridges fall down and kill people when designed by incompetents. You bet your life every day on the competence of engineers.

Employers are NOT interested in curve ranking. They're interested in a degree as a mark of meeting a standard. Caltech's policy is that their graduates meet a standard of quality. A curve is not a standard. Someone who gets sympathetic good grades because of a bad teacher is not of interest.

If you don't accept that, there are plenty of other schools to attend.

But I suspect that if you think about it, you expect a standard of quality in everything you buy - goods and services. You're not interested in a flexible curve.

> I think you misunderstand what curve grading is.

I think you do. Curve grading is where the top score in the class determines the max score, and everyone is graded accordingly. It's a way of making sure that the test isn't so bad that even the top student can't get a perfect score.

> Except that bridges fall down and kill people when designed by incompetents.

That's true. That's why people who design bridges have to take standardized tests with objecting grading standards designed by groups of experts.

But that has nothing to do with the grading policy of undergrad classes.

> Employers are NOT interested in curve ranking. They're interested in a degree as a mark of meeting a standard.

No, they're interested in a degree as a mark of someone who can finish something that takes four years to complete. I don't care if you went to Caltech or MIT or Cal State Northridge, as long as you can write code.

> But I suspect that if you think about it, you expect a standard of quality in everything you buy

Again true, but I'm not buying people. College graduates are not a product to be bought and sold.

I went to MIT too and with the exception of about three classes, every single in-person class was a waste. The value the school offers is, in order:

- the people you meet - the brand name on your resume - the psets and structured guide to learning hard things

Notice that the last two still work over Zoom. If I were in the hard sciences this might be different but as a professional Software Engineer, the classes were almost entirely irrelevant to me.

I disagree.

Maybe your specialty is a different case, but there's no way on Earth that I would have gotten access to the equipment I used without the lab. Doesn't have to be MIT's lab, but someone has to have the ridiculous amounts of money necessary to construct and outfit advanced research labs if a student is to replicate that experience.

And that hypothetical, "someone", would have been unlikely to allow me to use it simply because I taught myself a bit about, say, nanomaterials online.

Let's be frank, if you need a lab, you're screwed.

That seems like the most difficult situation. I also assume that there are a lot of people who are/were on track to graduate who need to finish an undergraduate thesis. (I assume those are still required for some majors.) There are only two real choices at this point I would think: Pretend everyone completed the current semester's coursework/projects satisfactorily or require a summer session or some other form of make up time.

> every single in-person class was a waste.

Hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from MIT. I don't think you can categorically say in-person class is a waste for everyone.

As with many things in life, YMMV. Your one anecdotal experience is not going to be the same for everyone.

I’m sorry you felt that way because for me a huge proportion of the value was the human stuff, not just “networking” which wasn’t even called that back then, but doing pests with others (learning) talking to profs, being exposed via meatspace serendipity to hints I would not otherwise have seen or done, and the like.

I did skip most of the big lecture freshman classes (I was in ESG) which would not have worked for me (my HS graduating class was 39) but apart from them the classes tend to be relatively small.

I’ve never really noticed the value of the brand name but perhaps that’s a sign that it works so well :-(

Regarding the people you meet, if class resumes normally in the fall then you're only missing 1/2 semester worth of networking.

> I don't think anyone believes online is an acceptable substitute to a traditional MIT education

I suspect a lot of people believe that

Would you have paid 50k+ a year for an online education without the interaction you get from being part of the MIT campus a facilities and faculty?

What about lab work that demands physical access to facilities and equipment? Not everything can be virtualized.

I don't know. But if they can solve it, then a true online degree becomes possible, not just in an emergency. That's going to be revolutionary. Twenty years from now, everyone having to move to a physical location to attend a university is going to seem insane... if they can solve it.

A key part of moving away from your parents and going to uni is moving away from your parents. You are thrust into a whole new world, and that forces you to challenge your world view.

The harder problem is preventing cheating, which is already difficult to do in-person.

These are good questions, but nobody is going to have good answers, at least not yet. We’re in an unprecedented situation, which means that over the next few weeks just about every institution out there is going to be doing a whole lot of improvising. It sucks, and it’s highly unlikely that everyone who has to make sacrifices will ever be completely made whole. All that can be said is that it beats the alternative.

Most of the value of an elite education is signaling: it proves the student had what it takes both to get into MIT, and to graduate.

If MIT switched to an online-only format, that would erode the value of the latter (which, remember, is social proof, not something which is notoriously rational), while open enrollment would obliterate the former.

A semester of remote teaching won't damage the brand.

Categorically disagree with that. The most valuable aspect of an elite engineering education IMO is getting to participate in a culture of elite professional academics. The spirit and energy which you learn to tackle REALLY ABSURDLY HARD problems is the most important thing I learned from my Rice EE education. Being able to find folks who were putting probes on Mars and Titan and being able to work with them to help build algorithms and visualisations to show insights from the data collected from these foreign worlds... that was the most valuable thing about my elite education... Honestly, most people don't even look at the school or even recognise it when I apply for jobs... The experience and participating with really smart people tackling really hard problems remains the most valuable thing for me 15 years after the fact.

This is a mistake on my part which I should have seen coming.

I said "value", and that conflated value to oneself with value to and as perceived by others.

Which are definitely not the same thing, and I was referring to the market value of a degree from MIT.

I don't happen to think half a semester of working remote is going to do much to dampen the intrinsic value of an elite education, either. It will mark the cohort as remarkable, having shared the distinctive experience of being Extremely Online together.

> Most of the value of an elite education is signaling

Not in my case (Caltech). It was clear when I got an industry job that a BS from Caltech was at about the same level as an MS from other institutions. But if the institution is large enough, one can get an elite education by careful selection of the classes and professors, and doing the maximum in those classes rather than just getting by.

For example, take honors calculus, not weeder calculus. Don't avoid the math heavy classes. Don't waste your time with easy-A classes. If you don't find yourself studying 6 hours a day, you're not getting an elite education.

> If you don't find yourself studying 6 hours a day, you're not getting an elite education.

Seems like an unhealthy attitude to me. I really dislike the perspective that education is at its best when the learning is most difficult. The best teachers are the ones that make things as clear and digestible as possible. Bad teachers are the ones that want to see you sweat.

It isn't about wanting to torture students. I never learned so much so fast before or since - and there was a lot to learn. I prefer teachers that expect a lot from their students.

It's not fundamentally different from athletics. If you want to be a good athlete, you're going to have to work your tail off. If you want to be an incredible engineer like Kelly Johnson, that ain't going to happen if you party through school. Nor would you have any chance of working with an engineer like him.

So ask yourself - do you want to design rocket engines? or cup holders?


BTW, as for health, I came out of Caltech a far more confident person than when I entered. I knew what I could do, and was happy about it.

It's wrong to treat the brain like any other muscle. It's more comparable to a neural network (pardon the tautology). You feed in data (knowledge) in hope that some of it sticks and forms new connections that you can use to better tackle new and existing problems. There's no rule of the universe that states that the process of feeding data into the brain has to be challenging.

Now, I'm not arguing that hard work has no merit. Clearly, working hard can increase your rate of knowledge-consumption and get you further faster. For some people, you included it seems, that works out great. For others, the ever-present "110% or bust!" attitude can have serious mental consequences. Accepting that education can happen without rigor won't harm those that intend to push themselves anyway, but it sure would benefit the constantly stressed-out students.

> There's no rule of the universe that states that the process of feeding data into the brain has to be challenging.

No pain, no gain. You're simply not going to become an expert in any field, mental or physical, without a lot of hard work.

> If you don't find yourself studying 6 hours a day, you're not getting an elite education.

This is absolute nonsense and a garbage mentality, akin to gate keeping.

In my experience 4 years at Caltech, the ones who didn't flunked out.

Of course, there were a couple unicorns (like Hal Finney) who didn't study and aced the tests, but they are as far beyond you and I as we are from a first grader. Me, I tried studying less, and it simply did not work.

I also have a friend who flunked out of Caltech. About 10 years later he asked if he could try again, and they said sure. He got straight As this time. I asked him if he was any smarter - he laughed, and said no, just that the second time he was ready to work.

I'd guess that if you attended an elite institution and got a degree without studying 6 hours a day, you're either a unicorn or a victim of the institution's marketing department.

Yikes, I wonder what you think of people like me that couldnt get an elite education.

I don't care if someone has an elite education or not. It's about whether they can do the job or not.

After what you just said, color me skeptical. I went to a state school and got an average-ish CS degree with average-ish internships and research, how far behind am I?

I don't know you, so I have no idea. Your employer and colleagues could give you a better assessment. But I can say that an average grade taking the top classes at school is much better than average grades in the minimum-to-graduate classes.

Education doesn't stop with the degree. Good engineers never stop studying to expand their expertise.

I've been working for several decades with other engineers. It's not too hard to see who are the good ones and who aren't. The "aren't" are the ones who solve problems using trial and error, and when they get it to work they don't bother figuring out why it's working.

The "are" engineers will do whatever is required to find out what is actually wrong, work to understand it, and will do a targeted fix.

What kind of engineer you want to be is entirely up to you.

One thing you can do is take the youtube MIT CS courses. It's free. I've taken some of them to fill in gaps in my education.

You're already far behind due to your insecurities or Will an internet forum really guide your life ?

An MIT grad will always have more gates open than an NCSU grad. You need to do other things in your career to lessen the gap. There is no moving past this point no matter who you ask. And no the amount of hard work you do doesn't matter. Everyone of the "elite" school students work hard.

> An MIT grad will always have more gates open than an NCSU grad.

In the immortal words of Amy Klobuchar “are you calling me dumb?”

> You need to do other things in your career to lessen the gap.

Such as what exactly?

I stated a fact. You implied it meant you were dumb. The average MIT kid may as well be smarter than the average NCSU kid. But there sure may be NCSU kids smarter than some MIT kids. All of this is relevant to a certain degree. You keep on harping over the same points.

If you had admits from MIT and NCSU, both full rides, which one would you choose ? Let's see what cognitive dissonance you concoct now.

That wasn’t my question

Answer my question too, what would you choose between the two ? Would brand and prestige play a role in your decision ?

All your posts here disparage higher "brands" than what you have.

I’m not disparaging anything. Only you seem to...

That's neither here nor there really. I'd appreciate an answer!

1. I'm not calling you dumb. 2. It's prestige you're after. It's clear from your answers you want some validation from society. There are brands you can chase - BCG for consulting, Google (no Amazon doesn't carry the same weight), Rhodes scholar etc..

If you're saying Amazon doesn't carry the same weight, you seem to be calling me dumb.

No I am just stating a fact. Also if someone perceives another person to be "better" than you, that doesn't make you dumb. There will always be people smarter than us. If you're chasing validation you can keep going and chasing degrees + institutions.

And now please answer MIT vs NCSU ? If you reply with NCSU then we're done here. No point even discussing with someone who is lying.

I don't see the relevance of this question

Why can't you answer it ?

It’s hard to get into MIT. Once in, it’s just not that hard to graduate. It’s a grind and parts are moderately difficult, but I think the hard filter is up-front (and lossy/random). (class of 1993.)

Yep. The 4-year graduation rate isn't great, but almost everyone gets there eventually. I know plenty of people who just kept plugging away, dropping classes in the 10th week if they were going to fail. One extreme outlier took 17 years.

> If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all?

Mit was probably the first offering serious online courses with recognised certification. You can do their micromaster if you want:


So it's not like they don't offer the option. They also published opencourseware if you don't need the paper itself.

I'm not saying they don't provide value locally, but they do push for online education themselves and literally provide you resources for free.

> If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all?

Most assignments are not scored in an automated manner, and the number of staff is not unlimited.

Given the usual university budget and the going rate for overqualified, part-time, and temporary adjuncts, the staff is less limited than one might think.

Remote students and remote adjuncts--what do you need administrators for? Ah, yes, to collect the tuition, attend the luncheons, and issue the credentials.

It would at least put a small dent in the oversupply of Ph.D. holders in some fields.

Well if MIT/Stanford/Harvard are what they are because of the elitism of getting to study there, and the branding-power it brings to one's resume, it kinda seems obvious they will have 0 interest in have an unlimited supply of students/graduates, which surely would diminish/affect the branding power on a resume of any of those universities programs, if literally a lots of new graduates could be graduating from those schools.

Elitism works in a limited setting, probably not in an limited/open setting...

My point is that there is no supply-scarcity limit on university teaching positions. But you are correct that each university has a monopoly on their own brand, so they can restrict supply and raise prices up to the monopolistic competition limit (as the other universities are close substitutes). For the select few universities whose degrees are a Veblen good, the more they charge for their degrees and faculty positions (not just in tuition, but in time, application qualifications, and influence), the more they return in upper-class prestige (not just faculty pay and graduate earnings). You can't project that you only take the top 0.1%, if you admit 0.2% of all high-school graduates.

That prestige problem is especially dire with medical colleges in the US. The patient community (aka everybody) desires more numerous, cheaper, and better-distributed physicians, but the physician community desires higher-paying positions that are more costly to fill, with a remuneration premium for working in less desirable territories. So only some hospitals are teaching hospitals, and their residency programs have limited slots. (I think the Army/VA system could possibly break that cartel, by ordering qualified recruits that sign up for a longer term of service to become physicians, and routing their medical training outside of the civilian system. It would certainly drop ER visit prices when those stabilization specialists and trauma surgeons get their 20 and start to "retire" out to civilian jobs.)

If universities are going to order students and faculty to leave campus, they are removing a huge piece of their competitive advantage over universities that already have mature distance-learning programs, but with lower tuition. If MIT takes its campus off the table, the thing they have left is their brand name. That's enough to sustain them, specifically, but there aren't many other universities that could get away with it. The one just up Massachusetts Avenue, maybe, and a handful of others. And they still have to pay for grounds and facilities upkeep, even if they aren't using them as much.

Any other distance learning program could probably hire 1 remote adjunct for every 10-15 remote students and outdo "two sections of lecture hall plus office hours" tenured professors that have a 1:300 ratio. They can use some of the savings for cheap test proctors at distributed--and possibly also shared--evaluation sites. If every surplus Ph.D. can get a part-time remote teaching-support gig for 20 hours a week at $25/hour, they can still keep working the jobs they already have, that don't require their advanced degrees, because their graduate universities did not restrict Ph.D. output to just what the industry could bear.

A degree from MIT might open more interview doors, but there is less difference in switching between schools like Rose-Hulman and Georgia Tech. If campus location is no longer a factor, any student could study at any school. Schools that want to survive under such competition would have to bring down costs, fast.

At other schools the online offerings for courses can be more expensive than the in-person offerings.

Online doesn't mean that you have unlimited capacity for students. You still need to grade homework and exams, offer virtual "office hours", answer emails.

> At other schools the online offerings for courses can be more expensive than the in-person offerings.

The school where I earned my master's degree had two programs, one online and one in-person. There were several differences, but the most salient one was that the in-person program conferred an academic degree while the online one conferred a professional degree, and the online one had significantly higher tuition.

The fact that many state universities have policies limiting how rapidly academic degree programs' tuition can increase, but not the professional ones, is, I assume, just a coincidence.

> You still need to grade homework and exams, offer virtual "office hours", answer emails.

But all of the above can be done by TAs, and do not need a professor. Professor time is much more limited.

That still takes 'manpower', which is limited, and there's likely some stipulations that require the professors to actually do one-on-one time with students, not just always delegate to TAs.

Yup, but it should free up professor time by a large amount. Manpower is still limited, but far more manpower is available compared to before.

I am at a (small) academic meeting right now and all of the professors in attendance fear how much extra effort this move to online-only classes will be and how it is going to cut into their research time.

Why should there be extra effort for online classes?

My university had a course where an external professor would deliver a mixed online/offline course. Videos were available on institute website. Professor would hold a class every week to go through that week's contents and clarify student doubts.

This saved a ton of effort on the professor's part.

Because nothing is set up for it yet.

There is a reserved scheduled class room for the class, but there is no organized zoom meeting yet (or maybe not use zoom after all?).

There is a mail box to drop of home work assignments, but nobody has figured out where students should email things for grading (the prof, the TA or a function account?).

The prof has a set of notes that (s)he writes onto the white board, but not a set of slides to be emailed out. Or might have electronic slides, but they contain annotation that should not be sent out to students.

Everybody has to figure out how to make sure that 200 students can join the zoom session, but have their mic muted. And know how to unmute when they want to ask a question.

Exams for the mid terms might be printed but now need to be (e)mailed. And how do you prevent cheating in an exam that was meant to be taken under supervision with pen(cil) and paper only. Of course you can create an open-book exam where google doesn't help, but that is extra effort. And does not prevent collusion between students.

Somebody need to figure out how to replace lab courses.

And the list goes on. All of that can be fixed. And after a couple of semesters an online class might be no more (or possibly even less, but that is not proven) work than the current offline course. But switching in the middle of a semester with ideally no downtime IS a lot of extra effort.

The lab courses and to a somewhat lesser degree seminar-type classes are the really tough question. A course like 2.007 [1] which is one of the best known and most useful classes in the Mech Eng curriculum can't be replicated online to any meaningful degree--especially with zero notice and planning.

I'm honestly not sure what you do at this point. Finish up the semester as best you can and just give everyone a Pass? Force people to attend a summer session whether or not they can afford to not be working? There aren't any good options.

[1] https://me-2007.mit.edu/

Thanks for your detailed reply. This really puts things into perspective.

For one thing, profs often teach some classes repeatedly, which means they dont have to put substantial effort into planning for subsequent offerings. If the planned content is somehow unsuitable for a different medium of delivery, this would take some planning that they weren't expecting at the beginning of the semester.

A university education is not a SaaS product.

We are getting to the point where lectures should be mandated to be recorded and put into the public domain, and the University's value proposition in admission, tuition, and residence should be the everything else involved which could raise the focus away from re-doing the same lectures over and over.

There's a lot of value in running through the lecture live with a new class. Different students, different needs.

If my undergrad CS Theory prof had used recorded lectures, it would've been great for 5 of us, and terrible for the other 30 or so. There were sections that they just did not get and needed repetition or clarifying examples. What's more, the students often don't know what they aren't understanding (sometimes they do, but often not). So they don't know how to ask for clarification because they don't know what needs clarification.

Waiting for test, quizzes, or homeworks is often too late. What worked out well for my classmates was the help of the professor and a couple of us who got the material faster. The three of us could observe the class and identify what material (by non-verbal reaction or by questions) needed to be delved into more. Try doing that with a set of recorded lectures.

In the end, perhaps you have a sufficiently complete set of recorded lectures that cover everything. But you still have the challenge of identifying what students need help with and helping them immediately, instead of failing a large portion of a class and hoping you do better the next time.

I mean, this is literally the waterfall vs agile debate. Classrooms are agile and responsive to student needs, recorded lectures are not.

It's a lot easier for students to understand lectures that they would not in-person, when they can pause or rewind video. A lot of misunderstandings are due to lapses in attention. This needs to be considered in any model of relative-effectiveness.

This sounds pretty silly. There's bound to be a way to make online (or semi-online) learning agile too. Distance learning is basically a solved problem and has been done for hundreds of years.

How about recorded lectures and in-person small group recitations? Or longer office hours? Obviously you have to change the methodology of learning a bit, but I'm sure it can be figured out.

In any case undergrad level science lectures are basically a one-sided info dump where the lecturer is lucky to get so much as an ACK that someone is listening.

How do you handle things like chemistry labs? Vocational training and art curricula are also going to be very difficult to do remotely, since you're probably not going to have requisite materials at home.

Let's just go all the way: at MIT, the Nuclear Engineering students get to operate a real nuclear reactor.

Put it on the internet?

labs are not lectures. If anything, moving the lectures online frees up the lecturer to devote more of their resources towards labs.

Completely solved problem? What about lab courses?

> lectures should be mandated to be recorded and put into the public domain

Some minor student issues that can be tolerated when lecture is not recorded, will be completely unsuitable in recording.

> We are getting to the point where lectures should be mandated to be recorded and put into the public domain

Does that really make sense? I thought MIT was a private institution. The research is often publicly funded but I don't believe that's the case for the tuition.

I've been told there are currently meetings to discuss the process for partially reimbursing room and board.

I am teaching a University course right now. Online is absolutely not a substitute for butts-in-seats, work on the blackboard, live questions, etc, type of style that an actual classroom affords. IMHO it is less work for everyone overall, because being in person and taking notes makes students focus and remember better. I think the outcomes are better.

> If there is no refund being offered for the content shifting online from in-person, why have in-person at all?

There isn't really a good reason other than some people being more disciplined when there's a human instructor that they see face to face every couple days. Plenty of people self-teach from MOOCs, MIT OCW, or just buying the textbooks and working through the exercises and get just as good an education.

When you go to an elite college, you're really paying for the degree. This is also why there are caps on admission: it creates scarcity value for graduates from that university. When there are fewer graduates with a credential, companies that want to employ them have to compete for a limited number of human resources, which drives up wages. Additionally, the university can impose selection bias on matriculating freshmen who will eventually receive the credential, which helps maintain the reputation of the university's graduates.

If you don't maintain the selectivity of the institution, you end up with what's happening in the mid-tier for-profit colleges, where students take out massive loans for a degree but then it doesn't really improve their employment prospects much. If everybody has a college degree, its financial value is basically 0.

"Plenty of people self-teach from MOOCs".

Are there studies (not from the MOOC providers themselves) that demonstrate that this works?

I got the impression that the MOOC thing wasn't working out as well as expected. The hype around them certainly seems to have cooled off since their peak a few years ago.

My hunch is that it's only a small subset of people that thrive with MOOCs.

Outside (mostly) of CS, there is a lot of engineering/science coursework that requires access to labs and other physical plant that can't be replicated online. Even in the humanities, I'm not sure the degree to which you can replicate in-person seminars with videoconferences.

I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in the humanities at a university in Japan. We don't know yet what will happen with our new school year, which begins in April, but some of the faculty have already started to experiment with online tools to see what might be feasible.

Each semester I teach a graduate seminar that typically has about a dozen students, all sitting around one table in a cramped room. The format is ideal for discussions, as we can all see and hear each other and read each other's expressions and gestures in real time. (Needless to say, the format also seems ideal for spreading coronavirus infections.)

If I had to, I could teach the seminar using Google Meet or a similar service, though it would be difficult to replicate the spontaneous interaction of the in-person discussions. However, there might be advantages to online discussions, such as allowing people more time to compose their thoughts before speaking or writing. I won't know until we try.

My bigger concern is with two freshman courses that I am scheduled to teach starting in April. While graduate students are already socialized to university life, first-year undergraduates are being exposed to it for the first time. I worry how well newly admitted students would be able to adjust to the university if they are still sitting at home by themselves in front of their computers. (Most students at our university live at home or in their own apartments, not in dormitories, so the housing issue is not so serious.)

Other commenters here have noted the difficulty of moving lab classes online. To those I would add foreign-language classes that emphasize spoken interaction and practicums in subjects like nursing, medicine, physical education, etc.

To me what you write are great arguments for tuition free universities, like the ones in Sweden. It makes society much more equitable and egalitarian. This whole artificial scarcity thing is such a lose-lose for everyone in society.

To me it highlights one of the big failings of markets, which is that a tool/credential/innovation only has economic value if it's used by some but not all producers in the market. Once it becomes universally adopted it becomes an opportunity for rent-seeking by the producer of that tool/credential/innovation.

In some ways this is the great strength of capitalism, because it provides an incentive to adopt innovations that helps overcome the status-quo bias that most humans have. But it also encourages firms to restrict access to their suppliers and tear their competitors down rather than building everybody up.


Have you read any Guy Standing?

“ …today, a tiny minority of people and corporate interests across the world are accumulating vast wealth and power from rental income, not only from housing and land but from a range of other assets, natural and created. ‘Rentiers’ of all kinds are in unparalleled ascendancy and the neo-liberal state is only too keen to oblige their greed.

Rentiers derive income from ownership, possession or control of assets that are scarce or artificially made scarce. Most familiar is rental income from land, property, mineral exploitation or financial investments, but other sources have grown too. They include the income lenders gain from debt interest; income from ownership of ‘intellectual property’ (such as patents, copyright, brands and trademarks); capital gains on investments; ‘above normal’ company profits (when a firm has a dominant market position that allows it to charge high prices or dictate terms); income from government subsidies; and income of financial and other intermediaries derived from third-party transactions.”

What are some of your go to authors, areas of interest? Or in other words, who are you grateful for, for their influence on you?

This is perhaps one of the more ignorant comments on this thread.

> When you go to an elite college, you're really paying for the degree.

In many cases, you go to an elite college to pay for the experience to learn from, engage with, and collaborate with the world's best scientists, thinkers, engineers, and professors. In some cases, like Rice, if your parents make less than 130,000 a year - you don't pay a dime. Undergraduate tuition is pennies to these institutions whose endowments are orders of magnitudes larger than the revenue from tuition. I look at it like this... My degree cost quite a bit a year... in exchange for that I got to study, learn, work in labs with scientists doing things that without me paying the entry fee.. I would have never been able to do. It's not like you can just walk up to a group of NASA researchers and IEEE fellows and say... hey can you send me GBs of data from the Huygens probe and provide me hundreds of thousands of dollars of computing power to play around with that data? Will you let me use your multi million dollar clean room to learn about lithography? Will you let me use that nanotube growing lab to learn about growing carbon nanotubes? If you are just paying for the degree you are doing yourself an offensive disservice.. and I would suspect one day you will look back and realise what a waste you made of the opportunity.

> This is also why there are caps on admission: it creates scarcity value for graduates from that university. When there are fewer graduates with a credential, companies that want to employ them have to compete for a limited number of human resources, which drives up wages. Additionally, the university can impose selection bias on matriculating freshmen who will eventually receive the credential, which helps maintain the reputation of the university's graduates.

There are caps on admissions for a wide variety of reasons - but largely because the faculty of the individual schools within these Universities are working to create a culture and a learning and discovery environment.. these goals are threatened when you have too many students to support while at the same time supporting the research that actually makes the university a worthwhile place to study.

> If you don't maintain the selectivity of the institution, you end up with what's happening in the mid-tier for-profit colleges, where students take out massive loans for a degree but then it doesn't really improve their employment prospects much. If everybody has a college degree, its financial value is basically 0.

I'm going to argue that what is happening at the mid-tier for-profit colleges is that they are actually not providing their students with a quality education or network that improves their employment prospects.

I have a degree from an elite college (Amherst, #1 liberal arts college in the country at the time I went). I took a gap year before and worked as a professional software engineer, where I learned a massive amount. Then I spent 3.5 years taking a variety of interesting courses that have been utterly irrelevant to my future career prospects, before flunking out of my physics major, switching to CS, and completing that major in a semester using the knowledge I learned while working as a professional software engineer.

You're paying for the degree. If you want to take interesting courses, learn cool stuff, socialize with intelligent students, and meet Nobel-prize-winning professors, most professors will let you audit their course even if you're not a student at the university, particularly if you seem genuinely interested in the material. (Hell, I'd taken half a dozen college courses as a high-school student before I even got to college.) It just won't count toward the degree, because the colleges know that their business model is selling a limited credential that the rest of the world values very highly.

Honestly, I paid for access to labs and researchers and the network after graduating.

I dunno about Amherst but Rice students and alumni also have insane access to the worlds coolest toys - https://sea.rice.edu/instruments/all

Aren't undergraduate ivy league programs more about signaling status than actually becoming educated?

MIT isn't ivy league and probably the least 'about signaling' school in the US...

Yes and no. It's been 10 years since I graduated, but I doubt much has changed. The curriculum is rigorous, the students are smart, and people are serious about learning. But nevertheless, going to MIT does signal something much stronger than the vast majority of other schools, and MIT students are highly aware of that, as is the institution itself.

MIT may not signal the same thing that an Ivy does, but it certainly signals something, and the faculty, staff, students, and graduates are certainly aware of and use that.

Pretty sure my school you never heard of has MIT beat on that one.

cough Media Lab.

The signalling is definitely a thing, but the bigger thing is just getting together with lots of smart people and working together to learn this stuff.


Perhaps for some, but everyone I knew while I was an Ivy undergrad was doing their level best to take advantage of the benefits of that amazing environment of smart, educated people, both the profs, the visiting speakers, and the other students. Since then, it has been what I've learned, not what signaling I could do that has helped me most (tho I'm not the most social person, so YMV).

One thing I really learned there (among other places), is that it really pays to learn from the best -- you have to go through a learning process, and best to learn it once going directly to the top level, vs. a watered-down version and then re-learning. (of course, you can't instantly jump to the top level, but just getting the clues form those who work at the top levels as you work your way up the curve is a huge benefit).

This comment. All this nonsense about elite universities being just about the degree and signalling is absolute rubbish. Elite universities are elite because they are made of some of the most influential thinkers, scientists, engineers, and professors in the world. Getting to participate in problem solving with these people is what makes these educations valuable in my opinion. I learned more from watching my professors tackle hard problems and reason themselves through them than I did from the actual material they were attempting to tackle. There is something to be said about the techniques and culture of the worlds best academics.


Yet my above comment, a factual 1st-person account -- nothing more, nothing less -- earns multiple downvotes with no dispute/discussion.

Evidently, anti-intellectualism and 'anti-establishment' virtue-signalling is dominant even here on HN... Sad to see. (yup, let the downvotes begin --- sheesh)

> If there is no refund being offered for the content shifting online from in-person, why have in-person at all?

Most MIT undergrads pay no tuition, even though tuition is something like $70,000 a year there. They have a massive endowment and are thus on average one of the lowest cost colleges in the US, though not as low cost as Princeton. What refunds could they give?

> Is room and board going to be refunded?


> If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all?

Most of MIT's undergraduate course work is on line and free for anyone to take. Many take advantage of that. They also have a Masters program, the first year of which anyone who wants to can take it for free. Those who do well are admitted to the second year.

MIT's way ahead of other universities on online education and does extremely well with it. The main "problem" is that MIT is in the top two engineering schools in the world, their classes are extremely rigorous and it simply is not for everyone. 99% of the world population, to be blunt, are not intelligent enough to do well there. And MIT has no intention of dumbing it down to be more "fair and equal" in accordance with the democratic ideal of minimal expectations.

But yes, there are effectively no caps on admission if you want to take online classes there. You won't get an MIT diploma, but you will learn the material and what you do with it is up to you.

> Undergraduates who live in an MIT residence or fraternity, sorority or independent living group (FSILG) must begin packing and departing this Saturday, March 14. We are requiring undergraduates to depart from campus residences no later than noon on Tuesday, March 17.

This is strange. Isn't the travel they are forcing quite possibly a cure worse than the disease? And are they really expecting students (many of them international) to go home within a week, seeing that flights are getting cancelled all over the place?

They do seem to have reasonable exceptions for students who "have concerns that they would not be allowed to return to MIT due to visa issues" or who "will have difficulty returning to their home country if it has been hard-hit by COVID-19" or who "do not have a home to go to, or for whom going home would be unsafe given the circumstances of their home country or homelife". I'm wondering how reasonably these will be implemented, though.

In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway? Are they not trusting their students to prepare their own food? Why don't they just close the dining halls instead?

>In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway? Are they not trusting their students to prepare their own food? Why don't they just close the dining halls instead?

The dorms have shared bathrooms, often shared rooms with doubles, triples, and quads, and shared living spaces (lounges, study rooms, laundry, etc.) in addition to the dining halls. Moreover, in our dorms, we have effectively no way to eat if the dining halls close down. Since mine has a dining hall for us to eat, it has only one kitchen for the entire dorm, which is ~500 people.

Edit: It's also worth pointing out that MIT students are at very low risk right now. Sending us all home before we're at a medium/high risk level is the right move, so students aren't bringing it home with them. Nobody on campus has tested positive yet (as far as we know), and once it reaches the campus it would spread like crazy. Better to preempt it and send us away now.

>Moreover, in our dorms, we have effectively no way to eat if the dining halls close down.

That sounds crazy to me, in Poland there's a multitude of cheap restaurants full of students close to every university campus. There's a big demand because universities are packed with students that don't cook for themselves. Why hasn't the same happened to the US then?

There are certainly restaurants nearby, but not sure I'd call them cheap. I imagine a lot of MIT students don't have the money to eat out every day. And since most dorms don't have any kind of kitchens or cooking implements, buying food from the grocery and cooking isn't really an option. Pre-made meals or other things from grocery stores that don't require cooking could work, but, again, I'd expect some/many students rely on their university meal plan for their food, and don't have much spare money to buy their own.

What dorms don't have kitchens? Certainly when I went to MIT, most (if not all) dorms at least had kitchenette's, 20 years back. Shared, of course, which is the main problem.

I've never seen a true dorm with a kitchen, the transition apartments owned by the university for juniors and seniors had them but freshman and sophomore dorms I've been in tend to have microwaves and thats it.

Its the right decision in my opinion since the largest number of fire alarm evacuations I've had to do were in those dorms because 18 and 19 year olds living away from their parents can't even figure out how to not burn popcorn in the microwave every couple weeks for movie night.

That's disappointing.

The shared kitchen in my "dorm" (we don't use the word) in London was great -- I made good friends by cooking together with others, and massively improved my cooking ability and confidence.

Day-to-day we mostly cooked fairly simple things (like on the front covers of these "student cookbooks"[1], which I was given about 5 of by relatives and friends), but every 2-4 weeks someone would decide to make an elaborate meal, probably something traditional from their country.

The fire alarm was activated once in two years -- and that was the warden burning something in his kitchen.

These kitchens are all for first year students:




[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/books/cookbook...

burnt popcorn used to be a way to cover the smell of pot.

Used to? :)

how does an 18-year-old who cant even make popcorn even get into college???

that thread is the bestof of this forum

I lived at Simmons Hall my first year and one of my reasons for moving to EC was kitchens.

It was plain ridiculous that they were fixated on requiring me to eat dining hall food. Cooking is one of the most basic and healthy life skills anyone can have.

Also, cooking for yourself forces you to learn about the cost of food and how to budget. Sooner or later, you're forced to cook something from scratch because because it's cheaper than takeaway or pre-made alternatives (and generally tastes better).

The flip side is that there's no shortage of UK students who have no clue how to budget, spend all their money on booze and then have £3 to last them two months until the next student load comes in. Perhaps raising the minimum age to purchase alcohol to 21 isn't such a bad idea ...

20 years ago, my shitty university didn't have kitchens in the dorms (except for the Engineering/Honors dorm, and just one floor). They'd confiscate George Foreman grills as a fire hazard during health and safety checks. We found dead rats in bug traps we put out. I got pneumonia and had to recover in the dorms.

oh and it was 2 years mandatory (most schools it's just 1 .. ours was out of money and shitty). I was so glad to get out of there. Those things are cesspools of ... cess. Get you meningitis shots kids.

You describe luxury. When I went to Penn state two people shared a single room a bit larger than a walk in closet. We had a "microfridge" which was one of those tiny soda refrigerators with an equally tiny microwave bolted on. Two chairs, two desks built into the wall, two built in sets of drawers, and two armoires were the rest if the room besides the two twin beds. Shared bathroom for the floor down the hall.

Hot plates and other heating elements were banned. Use of a dorm room was mandatory for freshman year.

I didn't go to MIT, but at Cornell (~20 years ago), at most, dorms had a microwave in the common area, but even that wasn't that common.

Only one does now, IIRC. Used to be two, but one was converted to a grad dorm in the past few years.

At my college all the dorms had a kitchen for residents to use in the basement... is this not normal?

We had a kitchen and hundreds of people. Dorms are not designed for students to regularly cook, and even if they were, a shared kitchen seems even less sanitary than a meal hall

It's not uncommon, but it's also calibrated to the negligible number of residents who want to use the kitchen. If everyone in the dorms suddenly had to eat out of that kitchen, there'd be a several-day waiting list to use it.

Which means it's not a viable fallback.

US colleges earn money off the meal plan and tend to be liability shy so having a full kitchen is a non-starter. Heck, it was against the rules to have a microwave in dorms (even room not in actual dorms) where I went to college. It was a pain in the butt.

Pretty sure the ban on microwaves was an electrical fire risk, not them being predatory about students eating at the dining hall. Can you imagine if even every other room had an appliance pulling 1000W whenever the hell a student felt like warming up some soup?

>Can you imagine if even every other room had an appliance pulling 1000W whenever the hell a student felt like warming up some soup?

Can you imagine if even every other room had an appliance pulling 1000W whenever the hell a student felt like blowdrying their hair after their shower?

The main problem with the provided dorm microwaves when I was in school was burned popcorn sending the entire dorm outside at 4am until the campus security could come and turn off the alarm.

> Can you imagine if even every other room had an appliance pulling 1000W whenever the hell a student felt like warming up some soup?

Imagine if every other room had a computer the student could just turn on whenever he felt like it.

In reality, the number of computers is of course more than one per room. No one is worried about the power supply.

OK, I know the U.S. doesn't have a good public healthcare system. But please don't tell me you don't have decent electricity either?

It's fine; I have no idea what secstate was thinking.

yeah it's not correct. in fact the logic makes no sense at all...how would apartment complexes exist if it was true?

See, this is why there's so much single-family-housing-only zoning in the US. ;D

We have 1 kitchen in the basement, but that's shared among 500 people

Depends on the dorm, but in some older dormitories there might be maybe one full size kitchen for student use allotted to the entire building.

> That sounds crazy to me, in Poland there's a multitude of cheap restaurants full of students close to every university campus.

As a rule (non fast-food) restaurants are very expensive in the US compared to most places in Europe.

Poland is on the extreme end when it comes to high quality food being extremely cheap. In Berlin it isn't terribly hard to get a healthy and large meal for 4-8 euros at a restaurant for me, but even I was surprised visiting Poland when pretty much every restaurant outdid and undercut that.

> As a rule (non fast-food) restaurants are very expensive in the US compared to most places in Europe.

This depends how you define fast food. Which by the way is already a massive segment in the US versus other places. There's a whole range of restaurants in the middle that serve cheap food that you stand in line to order, often serving working-class people, but aren't technically fast food. Maybe not so many in the expensive gentrified area adjacent to a big university of course.

Speaking as another German, fast food is used synonymously with "junk food" here, referring to either fast and unhealthy food (burgers, fries, "fish and ships" in the UK, Currywurst, everything greasy/fatty, etc), or food with large amounts of problematic additives, or fast and low quality stuff.

E.g. there is a tiny Vietnamese place around here that's very fast, but also very tasty, very fresh and reasonably priced (6-10 EUR). They are fast as "fast food", but lack the other "qualities" of junk food, so nobody around here would refer to them as fast food.

Döner (kebab) shops are somewhere in the middle. They offer unhealthy stuff (tons of - depending on the shop, low grade - kebab meat on a Döner for example) as well as a range of veggies and less greasy meals.

Really!? Not my experience - was last in Europe 10 years ago - VAT tax made eating out more expensive.

I thought it was VAT tax. Everyone said it was VAT tax.

I don't understand this comment. Were you, for example, in Switzerland, Italy, or the Czech Republic, all of which have vastly different prices? (And their own autonomic tax laws, too!)

Good point - UK.

Not sure where you were, and what restaurants you were going to, but eating out is quite normal in most of Europe and is generally inexpensive if you don't go to a fancy place. Certainly far cheaper for a non-fast-food meal than I've found the US to be.

MIT is kind of a weird location. Cambridge and Boston are _very_ high cost of living. Plus, every dorm either has kitchens or a dining hall, so the food needs aren't super high typically.

The US is a big place. Those exist in the US too, but MIT is in an area surrounded my software companies and pharmaceuticals. Not a lot of cheap options.

I used to work near MIT. At least several years ago, there were surprisingly few places to buy a decent meal near campus. (By surprising, I mean because there were also numerous businesses in that neighborhood with lots of well-paid employees.)

The area also has/had a small number of food trucks at lunchtime (only) IIRC.

If only we had a taco truck on every street corner.

Yeah, I worked near MIT from 2008 to 2012. It's almost a completely different place now. There weren't a ton of options back then, you had the MIT foodcourt, Rebecca's cafe, a sandwich place that was also a convenient store above a dry cleaner, and maybe Sebastians, but at least they weren't super expensive.

It doesn't even seem like the lunch options are better today, just more expensive. And dinner options, forget about it, way too expensive. We used to go to Tommy Doyles after playing corporate softball, and at least you could get a cheap burger.

Yeah, I've been to many of those places, also Chipotle quite a bit.

One thing I disliked about grabbing lunch in the area was that it mostly seemed really expensive or unhealthful.

I'm about average (I think) in terms of how healthful of a diet I try to have. But around Kendal Square it was hard to avoid crazy amounts of grease and salt in most of the meals. Okay for once in a while, but not every day.

Kendall has gotten super expensive .... the food trucks are also pretty much the same price as the restaurants for a meal

In the UK at least, most students live in shared-housing and cook for themselves from supermarket food, the 'dorm' model is usually used for the first year (~10 people sharing a bathroom and kitchen, although some new builds now have ensuite bathrooms), but never a shared room. Usually no cafeteria either (although some do). I can't believe some people are paying tens of thousands of dollars per semester to share a room!

Well - you are lying since none of the university accommodation in the UK is covered by tuition fees and it’s costs are sufficiently higher than what you would pay if you didn’t live in dorms.

Also I had a friend who lived in a shared bunk room in the UK.

> It’s costs are sufficiently higher than what you would pay if you didn’t live in dorms.

This actually varies significantly by university. Prices for accommodation have been going up since the recent government funding cuts (that accompanies the fee increase to £9k), but were traditionally subsidized by the universities such that they were cheaper than market rents.

I am not lying, but you can choose not to believe me if you want. I used to work for MMU, one of my duties was to inspect the first-year halls of residence. It felt strange, as I was younger than them at the time!

UK tuition fees are increasing, agreed, but that is a separate argument. Not making an argument against better tuition either, MIT is obviously a leader in some areas.

Please assume my intention is positive. I am not willfully spreading misinformation, if I'm wrong, point me to the facts.

Cost https://sfs.mit.edu/undergraduate-students/the-cost-of-atten... here says $10k/yr for housing, my mortgage isn't even that high. As a comparison: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/experience/student-life/l... (which I think is still quite high)

I certainly doubt you to be lying, but you are wrong afaik.

There are certainly shared rooms in a university in the UK (at least were ~10 years ago and doubt has changed). However it was a handful of students in shared halls rooms (in big old houses etc) compared to a population that must have been a few thousand. It was cheaper, and some people thought sharing a room would help make friends.

I remain dubious.

Can you show me any UK university that has shared sleeping rooms? I have never heard of this. Shared living areas, i.e. sharing a house, does exist, and is what my original post said.

My halls at Imperial College had double and triple shared rooms [1]. Looks like they don't use those buildings as halls any more though.

[1] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/centenary/memories/JoaoCabral.sht...

I stand corrected, thanks!

University of Leics had them ~2010. (I had a friend who lived in one)

I'm not sure if he's edited his post, but it is extremely rare for students to share rooms at any point of their university life. The closest thing we have is a shared study where two people have their own small sleeping room, but share a space with two desks/chairs. And even that is very uncommon.

Nope, he’s not lying. Worked at 3 redbricks. It is exactly as described.

There are plenty of fast food places/corner stores/restaurants/groceries in Cambridge within walking distance of MIT dorms. So the "no way to eat" part is a bit dramatic.

There is "no way to eat [while remaining quarantined]".

Dorms do not have private kitchens. They don't even have private sinks. I'm not familiar with MIT specifically, but the most you can usually hope for in the average American dorm room is a mini-fridge and a microwave. It would be incredibly difficult to expect a large number of people to live in those conditions for multiple weeks if quarantined.

You're still allowed to go to the grocery store in China. It's one of the very few places you can still go. Same in Italy. Obviously starvation is a much surer death than coronavirus, hence governments are not literally starving people to death by disallowing them from even obtaining food.

I was more focusing on the lack of facilities to prepare food. That limits what is available to students from the local grocery stores. Are we going to force these kids to basically eat cereal for every meal for a couple weeks? Do the local grocery stores have the stock of non-perishable and ready to eat foods to meet the needs of these students? Does every student have the funds to purchase this food out of pocket and outside of their meal plan? There are a lot of questions that aren't answered by just pointing to the local grocery store if the dining halls and local restaurants are no longer an option.

Sure, but the dining halls are being closed for the same reason as the dorms. If not for the coronavirus then neither closure would be happening.

In other words, it's not like the dining halls are being closed and then as a consequence the dorms are being closed for lack of food options.

This whole chain of comments started out with the following prompt:

>In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway? Are they not trusting their students to prepare their own food? Why don't they just close the dining halls instead?

Dining halls are inherently a highly trafficked gathering of a large group of people. That is exactly the type of things people are being instructed to avoid. It is likely a losing effort to try to prevent the spread of the disease through a college campus while still running dining halls at normal service levels. And once the decision is made to close the dining halls, you have to look at other options to feed the students. There is no clear answer to that question due to the reasons outline in previous posts so the ultimate response is to just send people home.

All of that applies to dorms too, maybe even worse because the close quarters are for much longer periods of the day. You've got multiple people living in the same room in dorms, and sharing all the common areas. That's a great vector for spreading disease. The dorms are closing for exactly the same reason as the cafeterias are, not because the cafeterias are closing first and now students have nothing to eat.

I have no idea what we are even debating anymore. It sounds like we both agree that the school closing down was a good decision because there are too many avenues for the virus to spread quickly through the student population.

Yeah me neither. Sometimes conversations just go off the rails. Happens in face-to-face conversations too.

Anyway, good day!

Fair enough. Have a good one.

If everyone’s going to go to the same place to buy groceries you might as well keep the cafeterias running. Serve meals in shifts if you think that’s necessary.

Not always, and definitely not whenever they want in China

I don’t know how much dining hall food costs or if it’s prepaid but you are talking about eating out for every meal on a students budget.

The point about bringing up the dining hall is they can’t go to the grocery store because they have no way to cook (and maybe even store) the food they bought.

Ha, the prices are at [1], the cheapest is around $13 per meal. Eating out can be much cheaper, and there are healthy options.

[1] https://studentlife.mit.edu/dining/residential-dining/meal-p...

Meal plans are typically pre-paid at the beginning of the semester. So that money is already gone, and I would expect that eating out for every meal -- even at below $13/meal -- would be out of reach for a lot of students.

I'm expecting to see MIT refund some portion of the semester's food cost now that the dining halls will be shut down.

The closest grocery is Target in Central square, which is extremely limited or maybe Trader Joe's, which also isn't the same. The Star Market that was right behind campus closed a couple years ago. It's not so easy, in my opinion.

That Target is less than a mile from all of campus, and a quarter mile from the closest dorms. That's easy walking distance. What am I missing?

That Target barely has any groceries, it's a small general department store. But yeah there is Trader Joe's, H-Mart, and Whole Foods. Market Basket is a bit further but more like a real grocery.

Yeah, the point is there's a wealth of options for food within a an easy hour round trip of walking (not just specifically the one Target). And a lot more if you have access to a bike. People are not going to starve to death when the alternative is walking 15 minutes to a grocery store. Let's be real. Downtown Cambridge is NOT some food desert like what exists in other parts of the US, where you could walk for hours and not reach the nearest grocery store (this is particularly prevalent in rural areas).

This is the point though, if things deteriorate none of these options will be viable.

They can't shut down the grocery stores for long periods of time for the simple fact that people will start starving to death, which has a mortality rate strictly worse than any pandemic disease. The only retail businesses still open in the worst-struck parts of China and Italy are the grocery stores and pharmacies, because they have to be open. They are essential. Some of my relatives are Italian and they have to book a specific time slot to go to the grocery store, and that and the pharmacy/doctor/hospital are the only things they can be on the roads to do.

These options will continue to be viable unless society completely collapses, which doesn't seem in the cards here.

everyone breathe in some corona and we can all be sick together for a couple of weeks

I’ve seen like most of Boston on a bike share under an hour. There is zero reason students in a dense major city couldn’t buy groceries.

Amazon Fresh will deliver groceries from Whole Foods within 2 hours, there's Uber-eats, DoorDash, Grubhub etc. There are a ton of inexpensive bars and restaurants all around Kendall and Central Squares (and yes, certainly some expensive ones!).

It's not the most economically accessible, but there is a Roche Brothers in Kendall now. It opened a few months ago.

MIT is within walking distance of the Prudential tower, which has a supermarket at the base.

Just go to Brothers, it’s right on Broadway.

How could the students or the university trust restaurants stay open? They can't just let the students fight for themselves. I am sure this is the 'least bad option' out of many.

I’m confused. Are the students not mostly adults? Why can’t they be trusted to find their own food in a large city, like any other adult would have to?

Generally when you’re moving to a new city as a non-student, you’re expecting to have to figure all of that out, plus the apartment you’re moving into will generally have a fridge and stove at a minimum. I don’t know how many students we’re talking about here, but at my university there was a small public-use kitchen in each dorm, but it would be madness to try to feed the whole dorm out of it. It was handy for making late night macaroni after coming home from the bar, but... not so much for everyone eating 3 meals a day.

What would happen if students stayed and then got ill? Are you suggesting that they carry on going to restaurants? How would they eat if they couldn't?

You're only considering the best case scenario of people not getting ill. That's not good enough. Sending people home is as much about planning for the future issues as it is about dealing with the current issues.

A restaurant isn’t an improvement over a dining hall when it comes to exposure to crowds.

A lot of american schools have mandatory meal plans for people who live in the school-run dorms (or at least for first-year students in dorms, which is most of the people in dorms)

Some college towns have cheap restaurants, not all of them do, though.

American universities are often basically in the middle of nowhere.

Low risk? The Kendall Square area of Cambridge is the very center of the outbreak in the Boston area. That's where MIT is, and where the Biogen headquarters are.

Many MIT students will later be discovered to have been exposed, and then exported the disease to places around the US and around the world.

> Nobody on campus has tested positive yet (as far as we know)

Have any been tested? How many have been tested?

I am not sure how one determines "risk" (?) with this asymptomatically contagious disease that lingers on surfaces and can travel in aerosal form a few meters.

The people at "risk" are the older generation [the parents ..], and movement of people contributes to spreading of the disease.

I think MIT is just off loading hot potatoes here.

Oh, I forgot their undergrad dorms are a lot more youth-hostelly than the grad ones I remember.

I kind of wish we had dorms for college graduates thinking about a 500 person dining hall, but I doubt that would be good for the COVID situation.

As a fellow MIT alum I still feel that this was a wrong move.

Online classes -- GREAT

Cancel social events -- GREAT

Encouraging students to go home -- GREAT

Requiring 4000 students to pack up in a span of a week, getting help from other students to dismantle lofts and home-built furniture and moving heavy boxes, sharing push-carts, sharing vehicles, renting vehicles used by god knows how many strangers, scouting nearby supermarket parking lots for grocery carts because all the dorm push-carts are gone, pushing carts full of boxes around town to storage facilities, cramming hotel rooms, travelling via flights -- BAD

I think Stanford's approach is much more reasonable -- they are letting students stay if they wish but are encouraging students to go home.

Ok, so a population that is majority not at-risk and extraordinarily self-contained is going to be instead distributed into the wider population en masse? Seems insane.

MIT is not "self contained," it's in the middle of the Boston metro less than a few miles away from dozens of other schools including large universities like BU and Harvard.

The university can send most of its students home. It can't stop the rest of the world from interacting with them in the middle of a regional hub.

I think most students would be more self-contained off-campus. Going entirely online helps, but I wouldn't call college downs clean. Clearing them out is a good idea.

What would instead happen is that students would go on spring break, quite a number of them traveling of town. Some of them would pick up the virus and then it would spread among the student body over the remainder of the semester. That's a plausible scenario that no university would want. Better to have them go home and stay there.

Many decades ago, the health department should have shut down the shared bathrooms and shared bedrooms. We knew it wasn't OK as soon as we agreed upon the germ theory of disease.

It would be great if this disease would finally put a stop to the madness of typical dorm living conditions.

An extra benefit would be a huge reduction in conflict. Roommate conflict is stressful and often leads to violence.

Seriously? What kind of school did you attend where violence between roommates was common?

I’m not sure about mit schedule, but at Harvard, which announced same measures earlier today, the students has to vacate dorm rooms at the end of the academic year anyway. This happens at the end of April. So essentially Harvard is asking students to move out 6 weeks before the end of the year. One of those weeks is spring break. I’m sure students are in shock and there is a lot of chaos on campus. But according to what I heard preventive school closings are much more effective comparing with reactive closings after people are already sick. I hope it is for the best and feel bad for all the parties - both students and school administration that has to basically abandon all work and figure out what and how to proceed.

What I am concerned about is this case in town next to Cambridge where elementary school student tested positive and school remains open with “advice to self-quarantine” for “close contacts”. The town officials thought it was sufficient to close and disinfect the school for one day and then to reopen it again. I find it very disturbing.

Agreed it is a bit disturbing how seemingly lightly K12 schools have been treating cases, which is possibly an indication of how lightly they will treat impending local outbreaks like that in Cambridge. I get there are fierce arguments on the side of keeping them open, NYC schools for example pointed to their free- and reduced-lunch program as why they can't close or go remote, (& that students don't have computers at home, or that parents rely on the school as babysitting).

This Seattle school figured out measures for handling lunch and remote schooling availability, at least: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/10/us/covid-19-s...

Especially in these early days, dispersal of dense populations can easily mean saving many lives. We need to flatten the curve so spread rate does not exceed hospital bed availability.

Nobody's saying we won't all be extremely inconvenienced by this, but slowing the spread will mean that inconvenience does not include many avoidable deaths. And now is the time to do everything we can. In weeks, once we feel the effects more closely, it is too late to make an impact.

This comic puts it well, the goal is to flatten the curve: https://twitter.com/SiouxsieW/status/1236721200291655680

And assuming they're refunding them... They can live basically anywhere for as cheap as a dorm room in MIT or Harvard. Sure, major inconvenience. People aren't gonna be homeless and die.

Probably, the better way to view these measures by various organizations is in terms of liability.

Child gets sick at home, that's on the parents.

Child gets sick in a dorm, that's on MIT.

That might explain a lot of the drastic reactions by institutions everywhere.

You can't let yourself be accused of doing too little.

It's probably less liability for doing too much than the potential liability of doing too little.

(Disclosure: Former MIT grad, not that that should be relevant.)

> Child gets sick in a dorm, that's on MIT.

I'd argue that they're adults, but from the rest of this thread (not allowed to cook, not trusted to keep clean, restrictions on alcohol, without a genuine lease on their home) maybe you're right.

When do American students / young people learn these things?

>This is strange. Isn't the travel they are forcing quite possibly a cure worth than the disease?

Many (most?) students already travel for spring break, so this shouldn't result in much more travel than usual. I imagine that is what motivated their timing on this.

MIT Spring Break starts on March 20th (at the latest, depending on exams) so it looks like they're taking advantage of the timing. Most students would already have plans to leave so this is less disruptive than during the term and potentially less risky than waiting until end of term.

Ref: https://registrar.mit.edu/calendar

They might have plans to "leave" and go on vacation/visit friends, but not necessarily to move. Those are quite different things.

I was going to suggest this as well.

I'm surprised more universities aren't cancelling before their Spring Breaks so that students don't bring it back.

They should cancel when spring break starts.

International students are gonna be in a very tough spot, especially those from china.

That’s why there’s an exception for them?

Thats good, but I just meant in general. At my school, there's a decent amount of international students, and it just sucks that they can't even go home and see their families, unlike the rest of us. I just feel really sorry for them.

Not a lawyer, but that sure sounds shady as hell. Where I live student housing, even in a dorm, is subject to normal tenancy laws - meaning eviction requires long notice etc. Even saying to someone they need to vacate their home in less than a week could turn out very expensive for the landlord in court.

MIT has an office of the general counsel and a baker's dozen of high qualified and experienced attorneys (not including supporting staff).

It is possible they are violating the law, but it's probably worth assuming they aren't and understanding why. It may be related to the MA governor declaring a state of emergency a couple of hours ago.

People are too quick to try to apply law governing private parties to governments and other similar institutions. Schools and universities can do a lot of things differently than, say, a private company can.

MIT is a private university, not public.

That is, to a large degree, a distinction without a difference. Large US research universities are more similar than different in most aspects including status as legal entity and (perhaps more important in practice) in how society sees them.

Doesn't matter. Universities generally are governed by specific laws.

Yeah people make the mistake of thinking your can figure out the law based on deduction and first principals. You can't you need to be familiar with applicable case law.

Thing to remember law predates science by about 3000 years.

> Thing to remember law predates science by about 3000 years.

Does it really?

Yes it does. Science as we know it really only dates back to the enlightenment, whereas law dates back to at least 1754 BC (and likely earlier).

More specifically, computer science only dates back a few decades (being generous, call it a century), and most of the people applying incorrect frameworks to law on this site are coming in with preconceived notions from that.

Why should they be above the law?

They're not above the laws that apply to them.

This is pure crony capitalism.

On the contrary, universities as a whole are much older than modern capitalism.

But anyway, I'm not interested in having a normative discussion as to whether there should be separate laws governing institutions of learning. The fact of the matter is that there are, and have been for a very long time, and that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon. I'm not the one that made it that way and I don't care enough to argue it with you.

They could always ask the state to declare a quarantine and boot everyone out. Quarantine powers in an emergency are extremely broad.

do you live in the US? getting kicked out of housing is usually a major stick that colleges use to enforce disciplinary codes. at my school, the first serious offense would result in being kicked from one dorm to another (I guess to separate you from your network of troublemakers?). after enough strikes, you would be kicked out of campus housing altogether (if not suspended/expelled). iirc, they would usually give about a week's notice if you were only being kicked out of the dorm, or a bit more if you had to find off-campus housing. definitely no full month's notice or drawn out eviction process.

I live in Finland. The student union is the body which owns the student housing and acts as the landlord around here. When the landlord normally resigns the rental agreement, the minimum notice period is six months.

I'm a college student in Massachusetts (but not Cambridge). We don't have a normal lease because we're in a "boarding house". This means that the school has the right to kick us out if we cease to be a student (e.g. expelled) which is useful when roommates need to be relocated if there's any violent incidents.

I imagine in case of the safety of the habitation there probably would be exceptions made. You know, an emergency or crisis of some kind. An act of god. I would imagine that if this went to court and the laws had a carve-out for that...

Anyone with legal knowledge of MA willing to chime in on this?

> In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway?

They are worse for MIT’s apparent COVID-19 policy of cancelling as much on-premise work and study as possible, since dorms have non-zero labor requirements. Student return-home living arrangements may also have that feature, but it's probably not MIT’s problem, and in any case student return home probably has less marginal effect on the requirements for non-family labor at their home than their impact at MIT.

Everything I have read is that young people are at the lowest risk, if at all, of even getting COVID-19. Why not leave them in place and let the professors (over a certain age) teach remotely?

Hate to think about how anyone with a lab is going to finish - there's not much remote in that.

My understanding is that young people are at lower risk of severe symptoms, but they can still get infected and transmit the virus to others.

>In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway?

They would be liable for not taking action against the Virus. Personal homes are much safer especially because all movements and interactions are accounted for. In a dorm, that's basically guesswork at best.

Not really sure what you’re expecting in a society that recognizes individual liability but not collective issues.

> In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway?

There is literature on respiratory infections in dormitories:


It’s unfortunately paywalled, but the original authors claim they’re working on getting it more openly available


> “ Our study was conducted at one U.S. university, which may limit generalizability.“

The topic under question is the respiratory hygiene of dormitories as compared to living in a house or other living condition. The N that is under consideration is the number of dorms, and the people who live in those dorms.

There are pros to having the study done on a single university if there is a large enough sample of students and dorms. Since they all were in the same university, it makes it easy to isolate for the dorm variables in a way that wouldn't be as easily accomplished with multiple universities.

[Same university, different dorms] isolates for dorms, keeping the university constant.

[different universities, different dorms] does not inherently isolate for just dorms, since there may be compounding factors present due to known or unknown variables present in different magnitudes in different universities.

Some universities have many dormitories. My alma mater had 18 different dorms and an 30,000-40,000 undergraduate student enrollment. It was like a mini city, complete with its own area code, police department, and post office. If you lived in a dorm, you could go a whole semester without stepping foot off campus if you wanted to. The vast majority of undergraduates lived in dorms during their underclassman years. You can get good data from 18 different dorms and tens of thousands of students. And arguably you can get good data with an even smaller number of dorms and students.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact