Messages from the University

Our plan for the fall semester

July 31, 2020

To our Danforth Campus community,

For the last several months, we have been squarely focused on planning for the fall semester and the steps we will take to bring our students, faculty, and staff back to the Danforth Campus as safely as possible for teaching, learning, research, and community. We are writing to you today to share our plan for fall.

First, we cannot emphasize enough that there is nothing more important than the safety, health, and well-being of our university community. We have made every decision with this core principle in mind, and with guidance every step of the way from our infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine. Our plan is informed by science. We have made decisions based on all available data, and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it develops in the weeks and months ahead.

The full plan for the fall semester is available on the WashU Together website, along with a short video that highlights some key aspects of the plan. These include:

Public health measures

In order to protect the safety, health, and well-being of our university community, we are requiring all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to take four primary actions:

  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times.
  • Practice physical distancing of at least six feet from other people.
  • Screen for symptoms on a daily basis.
  • Practice personal hygiene, including washing your hands often.

In addition, the university will implement a campuswide Integrated Disinfectant Plan based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the American College Health Association, and infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine.

Responding to COVID-19 cases

We have adopted protocols for monitoring, screening, and responding when necessary with quarantine, isolation and contact tracing within our university community. We are developing plans for testing students who will be living in university housing when they arrive in September, as well as additional testing during the fall semester for students, faculty or staff who meet certain criteria. More information will be provided in an upcoming communication.

Alert level system

An alert level system will be used to evaluate the severity of transmission in the region and assess the need for adjustments to the state of campus operations. A COVID Monitoring Team has been established to oversee the implementation of the alert level system. The university currently is at an Orange level, which means we are on High Alert with limited activities occurring on campus. More information about the alert level system is available in the plan.

Delivery of instruction

Academic coursework will be delivered in a variety of formats with some courses being either predominantly online or in-person, and others in a hybrid format, with learning offered both in the classroom and remotely to serve students regardless of whether they are able to be on campus.

Residential housing

Changes will be implemented in residential student housing to reduce population density. These include significantly lowering the overall number of students who live in Residential Life housing, and providing single bedrooms to all who do. We will provide housing to students with difficult extenuating circumstances. More information about housing will be sent to students and families this morning.

The plan is the culmination of months of careful consideration of what we can and cannot do under the current circumstances. We have worked to ensure that we can continue to deliver an outstanding Washington University experience to our students in a manner that is consistent with our highest priority of protecting the health, safety and well-being of our entire community. At the same time, it is very important for everyone to know this will not be a normal semester. It will look and feel different on campus. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we also will have to remain nimble and stand ready to shift gears and react as the situation requires.

Please watch your email for instructions on next steps you may need to take in preparation for the fall semester, including an Intention for Fall Study form that undergraduate students must complete no later than 5 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Additional information and updates are available on our Frequently Asked Questions page. You also are welcome to submit questions by email to or to call us at 314-935-8300 or 888-234-2863. We also are planning a series of town halls starting next week. The full town hall schedule is available on the WashU Together website.

While this will be a semester like no other, rest assured we are still WashU. We are a community that supports one another and does what it takes to get things done. Whether or not we are all physically in the same location, we are “WashU Together,” and we are confident that we will weather this storm and come out the other side of COVID-19 stronger than ever before. We remain grateful for your support and dedication to our community.


Andrew D. Martin

Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs