Novel coronavirus information

June 29, 2020

Previewing autumn quarter at the University of Washington (Message to Seattle students)

This message is being sent to new and returning students at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Messages were also sent to UW Bothell students and the message to UW Tacoma students with details specific to their campuses.

Dear Students,

For those of you preparing to join the Husky community for the first time, welcome! For those of you continuing your academic careers at the University of Washington, we look forward to welcoming you back this fall!

We know you and your families are eager to learn more about autumn quarter. Over the past few months, we have been hard at work preparing for how we can be safely together on our campuses while offering robust experiences for students who aren’t yet able to return in person. Protecting the health of our community is a responsibility we all share, and we will all need to be flexible. No one can predict with absolute certainty the course the pandemic will take, and it is possible that we may have to pivot to all-remote learning, as we did in spring quarter, if the virus is spreading too quickly in our state. All of our decisions, policies and procedures are based on consultation with public health experts and are examined through an equity lens.

Our goal for the fall is to provide a high-quality Husky Experience for every student as we prioritize your health and your academic success. Below, we outline autumn quarter instruction, campus health and safety requirements, and an overview of campus life so you can make your plans for the fall.

Because the UW is on the quarter system, our classes start roughly a month later than many schools on the semester system. That means we have a bit more time to finalize course schedules, refine our in-person and remote teaching plans, and prepare our campus for you. Recent reports of rising cases around the country, including here in Seattle and in neighborhoods where students live and gather, remind us that the coronavirus can spread rapidly when proper precautions aren’t taken. All of what we outline below is based upon the state’s Safe Start process, including guidelines recently released by Governor Inslee for colleges and universities in Washington.

Classes and academics
Classes will begin as scheduled on Sept. 30, in a hybrid approach. We are offering as many in-person courses as possible, prioritizing hands-on courses, such as studio, clinical and lab courses, and courses for first-year undergraduate and graduate students. You can check the time schedule, which for most courses already indicates whether they will be taught in person or remotely. Schools and colleges will continue to update the schedule over the summer as they finalize their plans, so you can check back for additional updates as autumn quarter gets closer.

To maintain a safe six feet of physical distance among students and instructors, small classes will meet in big rooms. Large classes — including all courses of 50 students or more — will be taught remotely. Depending on your area of study and where you are in your academic career, you may have many of your classes in person or very few. Or you may attend the lecture portion of your class online and then gather in person for discussion group sections with your classmates. To allow for appropriately distanced passing between classes, we will not schedule courses back to back where physical distancing is impossible because of narrow hallways and limited queuing spaces.

Students who choose not to return to campus, such as for health reasons or difficulty traveling, will be able to continue their academic progress through remote instruction. We will also continue to have computers and other technology available to borrow like we did in the spring. Whether you are studying with us on campus or from home, we’re working to ensure you have the courses and resources needed to progress toward your degree.

We understand students are in different places along their educational journey, and you can expect communications reflecting your particular status throughout the summer:

  • Incoming freshmen and transfer students will receive more information at summer advising and orientation sessions and as class registration for first-year students begins.
  • Incoming and current graduate and professional students will hear from their individual programs regarding program-specific orientations and expectations, while the Graduate School will offer a general online orientation to all graduate and professional students.
  • International students will receive information from International Student Services, given the varying and fluid restrictions on travel from and to many countries.
  • And UW Bothell and UW Tacoma students will receive information specific to their campuses.

For all students, the many services that help you make the most of your Husky Experience will be available this fall, including academic advising and tutoring. Other forms of academic support and experiential learning opportunities — such as undergraduate research, career services, disability resources and community engagement and leadership education experiences — will also proceed. Information about these and all services and programs will be updated and shared throughout the summer.

Staying healthy
Protecting your health — and the health of your families and friends — will take a commitment from each and every one of us. Maintaining physical distancing may be tough, especially when you are meeting with friends and collaborating on projects and studying. But it is one of the most reliable ways to avoid spreading — or contracting — COVID-19. We expect all students to do their part.

To help us all stay safe, the University has established policies, including requiring students, employees and visitors to wear masks when they are indoors near other people and outdoors if people are unable to stay six feet apart. Hall Health, the University’s on-campus medical clinic, is currently open and will remain ready to fully serve students’ medical needs, including COVID-19 testing. Contact tracing and voluntary expanded testing to spot any potential outbreaks early will also be part of our campus protocols. Our testing protocol is in development with faculty and clinical expertise from across campus and will be finalized soon.

We will also expect all students to practice the good and now familiar hygiene recommendations of public health officials: washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer and monitoring your temperature and other changes to your health.

If you get sick, we will require you to stay wherever you are living — in your residence hall room, apartment or family home — and away from others and common areas. For those who live on campus, we will have residence hall rooms set aside for students who test positive for COVID-19 and need a place to isolate while recovering. In addition to Hall Health, University mental health services will continue to be offered in person and remotely for students.

Housing and dining
We look forward to welcoming students back to campus housing. Those who have applied to live on campus will begin receiving communications regarding next steps in the assignment process from Housing & Food Services, including information about room assignments, dining and the use of community spaces. Other on-campus food services will be available throughout campus, following strict hygienic and physical distancing protocols as mandated by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Student clubs, activities and athletics
We know that being in community with others is important, especially during these challenging times. Whether you live on or near campus this autumn or decide to take courses remotely, we encourage you to participate fully in your experience. Student clubs and organizations will meet in person and virtually, and campus recreation and workout facilities will be open, with adherence to public health guidelines to protect your health and the health of our employees.

Athletics are a big part of the college experience, for students and student-athletes alike, and UW Athletics and the Pac-12 Conference will follow public health guidance on how best to proceed with fall sports.

Campus gathering spaces
Spaces such as the Husky Union Building and the Burke Museum are being prepared to open for in-person services and small gatherings. Physical distancing guidelines for various facilities will be posted and available this fall directly from these and other facilities and offices.

More questions?
Join us for an online Back-to-School Town Hall with UW leaders at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 10. You can send your questions in advance to A recording will be posted following the town hall.

You can also visit for up-to-date information and resources. And, as always, please consult with your college, school or department for more information specific to your academic program.

Whether you are a first-time UW student or are continuing your academic career, by taking these and other simple steps, we can unite as Huskies on our campuses and worldwide to continue our journey together, safely. Thank you for your resilience during these extraordinary times.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

Mark Richards
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Earth and Space Sciences