Novel coronavirus information

April 1, 2021

Spring quarter and commencement (Message to Seattle campus students)

This message was sent to students at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Similar messages were sent to students at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma.

Dear Students,

We hope you’ve had a good start to spring quarter, and that the longer days and growing hope for an end to the coronavirus crisis have lifted your spirits as they have ours. As we all continue to do our part — including masking up, maintaining distancing and avoiding large gatherings, and getting vaccinated when eligible — the University is working to expand the number of in-person services and activities this spring, and planning for how we will recognize our graduates. We have updates on both of these topics to share with you.

Spring quarter

Yesterday, we shared guidance with instructors and staff that outlines how to safely offer more in-person services, student organization meetings and optional class-related activities. The state moving to Phase 3 of its recovery plan allows us to do more in person, though its requirement for six feet of distancing in classrooms, study areas and other facilities continues to limit most in-person instruction and group gatherings. Nevertheless, we will see an expansion of in-person services this spring and summer, and instructors are now allowed to offer optional class-related activities, so long as students learning remotely aren’t disadvantaged. Masks continue to be required in all UW facilities, regardless of vaccination status.

One of the most frequently asked questions is around study spaces, and we’re happy to report that the Research Commons is now open for individual study by reservation. UW Libraries plans to expand available hours and services as staffing permits. The HUB also allows the reservation of rooms for private use, such as job interviews, as well as offering more in-person services. Student Life maintains a list of what services and facilities are open.


We recognize commencement and the UW’s many graduation celebrations are among the most meaningful events in the lives of graduates and their families. Together with our faculty and staff, we too look forward to these events. We take pride in your achievements and recognize you have worked hard — particularly since last spring — to reach this moment. We have spent the past several months evaluating what would be safe, feasible and equitable to do for commencement.

The UW’s 2021 commencement ceremonies will be held virtually, including all college, school and department graduation celebrations. Based on consultations with health experts, student leaders, and the University’s deans and chancellors, we determined regretfully that holding an in-person commencement ceremony in Husky Stadium — which in a normal year brings upward of 50,000 graduates, families and friends to the Seattle campus — or events throughout our facilities is simply not possible in the interest of public health. Rising case counts in recent days, along with the fact that the majority of the UW’s employees and students will likely not yet be fully vaccinated by commencement, make our conditions uniquely difficult and fluid when compared to other institutions around the country.

We know the lack of an in-person commencement is disappointing news for our 2021 graduates, as well as for the 2020 graduates whom we’d hoped to be able to recognize at an in-person ceremony this year. We are working on additional opportunities to celebrate our graduates during the traditional spring timeframe, as well as to recognize the achievements of the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 in the future. We’ll share details later this quarter. And as was announced in January, we are planning to be back for largely in-person classes in the fall.

We continue to be grateful for the ways you have cared for each other, for those who depend on you and for yourselves. Thank you for the many ways you have continued and excelled in your studies, your clubs and activities, your internships and research, and your friendships in the face of grief, loneliness, anxiety and all the other, often hidden, side effects of this pandemic and other traumas. We can create a brighter future if we remember and act on the lessons these times are teaching us about building a more just and more equitable world for us all.

Stay safe. Stay strong. And best wishes for a successful spring quarter.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

Denzil Suite
Vice President for Student Life