Novel coronavirus information

January 14, 2022

Winter 2022 designated extraordinary circumstances quarter (Message to students, instructors and advisers)

This message was sent to students, academic advisers, faculty and academic personnel across the University of Washington.

Dear UW community,

This week, researchers at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation noted that the Omicron variant is expected to peak in the coming weeks. “It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” predicts Ali Mokdad, UW professor of health metrics and the UW’s chief strategy officer for population health.

But first, we must get through this stage of the pandemic, which admittedly feels much like a return to the beginning. This time, though, it’s different: We have vaccines, boosters, masking, distancing and a variant that is less lethal, especially to the vaccinated, than what we began to fight almost two years ago.

Nonetheless, the impact of the variant is painfully familiar, and we have provided instructors with additional flexibility on their teaching format through January 28 to better deal with Omicron’s disruptions to our teaching and learning environment, not to mention its stress on health-care and other support systems. We recognize the toll this switch is taking on students, instructors and staff. To ease that burden, we are designating winter 2022 as an Extraordinary Circumstances Quarter.

This means that students may change their course grades between numeric grades and Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory (S/NS) until their degree is posted, provided that the courses were taken during an Extraordinary Circumstances Quarter. Extraordinary Circumstances Quarters include spring 2020 through summer 2021, and now winter 2022. Autumn 2021 was not designated as an Extraordinary Circumstances Quarter. S grades earned for courses taken during Extraordinary Circumstances Quarters will count toward degree and graduation requirements.

For more information on S/NS and numeric grading options, refer to the Office of the University Registrar. (Please note that a $20 fee applies each time a student requests a grading option change.)

This designation is not dependent on the quarter being mostly remote. We remain committed to returning to a primarily in-person quarter at the end of the month if it is safe and feasible, and we will continue to assess and evaluate conditions in the weeks ahead.

We know the past two years have been trying, to say the least. Many in our community — students, faculty and staff — are struggling with mental health and loneliness, frustrated by limits on social gatherings. Instructors are overwhelmed as they switch their classes between in person and remote. At the same time, many of them, as well as staff and students, are balancing elder care, child care and inconsistency in K-12 education. We urge everyone to be patient with each other, to be understanding and compassionate.

A hopeful sign is that once Omicron peaks, scientists expect that may mark the shift from pandemic to endemic in which COVID becomes more manageable, perhaps like the flu. Until that happens, we will continue to adapt as needed, based on science and public health guidance, and while continuing to try to minimize stress across our community. Thank you for your resilience, grace and commitment to the public mission and academic excellence of the UW.


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

Philip J. Reid
Vice Provost for Academic & Student Affairs
Professor of Chemistry