Novel coronavirus information

March 31, 2021

Phase 3 guidance for instructors and student services (Message to instructors and staff)

This message was sent to all instructors, academic personnel and staff at the University of Washington.

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, we shared details on what Phase 3 means for our University operations and extended telework flexibility to Sept. 10 for those employees who want to continue to work remotely and can do so without impeding operations. We are now able to share guidance on in-person instruction-related activities and student services.

Following consultation with academic and student support services leaders, the Back-to-School Task Force has posted Return-to-School Guidance that covers the period from the start of spring quarter through to Sept. 10.

Under Phase 3 and Phase 4, limited in-person academic and co-curricular activities are permitted so long as they are safe and operationally feasible. These activities include individual and small group informal instruction, such as office hours; academic-related meetings; and meetings of Registered Student Organizations.

All of these activities must follow health and safety guidelines — including wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distancing and working with building coordinators to ensure spaces can be safely accessed. These activities must also be voluntary and consider equity, including offering remote alternatives and not factoring in-person participation into grades. As you develop plans, please be considerate of the many facilities and support staff across the University who have been working on our campuses throughout the pandemic and who will continue to be vital to safe operations.

Masks continue to be required at all UW facilities, and you must stay home if you have symptoms or feel ill. These requirements apply even if you’re fully vaccinated. Additionally, the state’s requirement for six feet of distancing remains in effect and limits the capacity of workspaces, labs, classrooms and meeting rooms. The state recently reduced the distancing requirement in K-12 schools to three feet, but confirmed these changes do not apply to higher education. We expect the state to evaluate distancing requirements later in the spring or summer in conjunction with the expansion of vaccination efforts and in advance of autumn quarter.

Because Phase 3 came just a week prior to the start of the spring quarter, we will not be changing class modalities from what was already posted in the time schedule. Thank you for continuing to provide high-quality education remotely.

Specific guidance for autumn quarter and beyond, including University vaccination policies, will be provided as state guidelines are updated and the state’s vaccination efforts progress. As a reminder, we do intend to safely return to largely in-person instruction in the fall. We will also be sharing details on the plans for commencement and other celebrations of our graduates soon.

To reiterate what we wrote last week, we recognize the gradual reopening of our society and our campuses bring new anxieties and challenges. In many ways, it was easier to move most of our operations online than it will be to return to our campuses. But together, we can make this transition safely and maximize the opportunities for our students and all those we serve at our great public University.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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