UC Davis Re-Opens Its Classes for Wednesday, Prompting Angry Response From ASUCD

UC Davis issued a statement at 9 pm on Tuesday evening announcing, “After consulting with our UC Davis health and fire experts and monitoring updated guidance from other public health experts regarding air quality, UC Davis classes will resume on Wednesday, Nov. 14; however, all outdoor physical education classes are canceled.”

Here is the remainder of the statement:

In order to encourage people to refrain from excessive outdoor physical activity, Unitrans will offer free rides for students, faculty and staff throughout the day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

UC Davis Health pulmonary specialists recommend tracking the air quality index (AQI) in your region. When the AQI is over 100 (unhealthy for sensitive groups) or over 150 for everyone, please follow these guidelines:

  • Minimize outdoor activity and stay inside whenever possible
  • Keep all windows, doors and vents shut
  • If you exercise, only do so indoors

Students, faculty and staff who have chronic cardiopulmonary diseases such as asthma, COPD and coronary artery disease, or those who are pregnant or do not feel well due to the smoke, should monitor their symptoms and consult with their health care provider, or seek care at an urgent care center or emergency department if symptoms increase.

UC Davis will have a limited supply of N95 masks for students and employees, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Masks will be available beginning Wednesday midday at the Memorial Union and the UC Davis Fire Department on the Davis campus, and at Employee Health, UC Davis Health on the Sacramento campus.

Please note that prolonged use of N95 respirator mask can exacerbate symptoms in those with respiratory problems. N95 respirator mask use by those with heart and respiratory diseases can be dangerous, and should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. Please see links to public health advisories from Sacramento and Yolo County public health officers regarding mask use and consult with your health care provider about the benefits and risks of mask use.

Our concern for the health and safety of our community is our priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed.

In response, late on Tuesday, ASUCD fired back:

We, the Senators and Commission Chairs at the University of California Davis, are writing to express our dismay with the decision of the UC Davis administration to resume classes on Wednesday, November 14th.

The administration chose to cancel classes on Tuesday, November 13th as a result of the excessive smoke in the air brought on by the nearby Camp Fire. This decision was made as a result of the 169 on the Air Quality Index which indicates that being outside as unhealthy for all. This decision was greatly appreciated by students, especially those who have health conditions such as asthma. These students who did not have to risk their own health or well being in order to make it to their class. Canceling classes allowed students to remain indoors and not risk their well being in order to bike or walk to and from or around campus. This decision was in line with other universities in the region such as Sacramento State and Chico State which have both canceled classes due to air quality concerns from the Camp Fire.

Instead of remaining in lockstep with other university partners in the region, UC Davis decided to resume normal classes for Wednesday, November 14th. This decision was made despite that fact that the Yolo-Solano County Air Quality Index, which was linked to on the UC Davis home web page, shows the Air Quality Index is at 174 for Wednesday, November 14th. This is 5 points higher than Tuesday’s AQI in which the university chose to cancel classes.

As a remedy to this, UC Davis has offered free busing service to students, which for undergraduates is already free, and masks which are in a limited supply. These precautions are inadequate and do not address the fact that most students have to walk or bike from one end of campus to another.

The best response to this poor air quality, according to health experts, is to remain indoors which is not possible if students are expected to go to class. The student body has expressed much of their dissatisfaction regarding the recent decision to resume classes, and as a result have taken action in drafting a petition, garnishing over 10,000 signatures, to cancel classes on Wednesday, November 14th. ASUCD would like to echo those concerns and advise that the UC Davis administration will reconsider its decisions to resume classes on Wednesday, November 14th. We firmly believe that this is in the best interest of the health of students, faculty, and staff at the University of California, Davis.

Sincerely,

Alisha Hacker, ASUCD Senate Pro Tempore

Maria Martinez, ASUCD Senator

Simranjit Kaur, ASUCD Senator

Daniella Aloni, ASUCD Senator

Atanas Spasov, ASUCD Senator

Sydney Hack, ASUCD Senator

Jesse Kullar, ASUCD Senator

Justin Hurst, ASUCD Academic Affairs Commission Chair

Jumoke Maraiyesa, ASUCD Senator

Ko Ser Lu Htoo, ASUCD Senator

Nayzak Wali-Ali, ASUCD External Affairs Commission Chair

Bryan Perez, ASUCD Senator


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 thoughts on “UC Davis Re-Opens Its Classes for Wednesday, Prompting Angry Response From ASUCD”

  1. Todd Edelman

    ASUCD is 100% correct. Consider also the areas from where students, faculty and staff begin their commute: Per Purple Air, with LRAPA conversion enabled, the two Davis monitors – as of ten minutes before this comment was posted – read 142 and 152 PM 2.5, but those in Sac read between 168 and 180. Also, don’t forget that UCDMC is in the capitol.

    But that’s nothin’: The link to the Spare the Air main page shows that YSAQMD rates both yesterday and today with the same general “unhealthy for all” air quality. But back to the university’s peculiar particulate pushing: We know that faculty had to be there yesterday and I know that one, a DJUSD board member-elect, was allowed to return home, and another, the City of Davis Mayor Pro Tempore, did as well when the HVAC in her building became compromised.

    Today the Farmer’s Market is Closed. But DJUSD facilities are apparently going to open. The latter shows how screwed up things are and it leads me to my main point: There should be a… let’s call it a limited regional humanitarian curfew, so that parents in non-critical positions can stay home with their kids without penalty, losing sick days etc. from work, and so people who depend on daily income such as bartenders, food servers, taxi drivers… and the people working the Farmers Market…. can get some kind of financial supplement (c’mon, it’s hopefully just going to be a few days… for this fire at least.)

    But is there an authority that can do this? Perhaps, but it all needs to be set up in advance, obviously.  As a region – perhaps a state – we really screwed up — and the decision to close should not even be in the hands of those at the helm of UC Davis.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      The DJUSD decision makes sense – by closing school at the last moment, you put low income families in a very tough spot. For example, had they cancelled school, my kids would have had to go to work with me. A huge inconvenience. But there’s no way to have gotten child care at the last second. So doing what they did, keeping the kids inside with the doors closed was the best possible option.

      I understand UCD’s decision as well – cancelling a week of school would have probably meant they would have had to postpone finals as well. No good options. But I think it was better to try to mitigate exposure rather than cancel class.

      1. Todd Edelman

        In regards to 

        kids inside with the doors closed,

        I am really curious if improvements planned with Measure M funds are updating HVAC systems with filters which address particulate matter quite a bit smaller than 2.5 microns —  most classrooms have windows that are meant to fully open, i.e they’re not over-pressured currently, right? What kinds of filter systems are currently in place at DJUSD school sites?

        About

        mitigation,

        if the buildings cannot support the equivalent of MERV 13 filtration in some way OR if there are not enough N95 masks for everyone, the school should stay closed… for all. I would guess that both of these criteria cannot be met, but I shudder to think of the disaster delayed finals etc would be!!!

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          It wouldn’t necessarily be a disaster, but if we walked through the impacts of delaying finals by a week, there would be a number of them. The bigger question that you raise is a good one and one that I think we need to think about in the long term – if this is really the new normal and it seems like it as this is the third time in the last year that we have had prolonged extremely bad air quality – then we need to start retrofitting older buildings and requiring new buildings to have better systems.

        2. Mark West

          “if the buildings cannot support the equivalent of MERV 13 filtration in some way OR if there are not enough N95 masks for everyone, the school should stay closed”

          How many homes in town do you think meet the MERV 13 filtration standard? I highly doubt that mine does. Unless the situation at the schools is worse than at the children’s homes, there is little reason to keep the kids at home, especially when you consider the financial impact on the parents from doing so.

        3. Todd Edelman

          Mark West:  I was referring only to UC Davis.

          The solution for DJUSD facilities goes beyond what they can do with equipment or local logistics. There has to be an integrated mechanism, at at least a regional level, that supports parents financially etc. so that they can stay home with kids. To be honest, it seems like it would need to be Federal legislation of the core civil rights variety.

  2. David Greenwald

    Statement posted at 6:50 a.m. Nov. 14:

    Chancellor May and other campus leaders have heard the community’s concerns. The chancellor regrets any stress or inconvenience our previous update caused. We are all learning together. The Davis and Sacramento campuses will be closed today and classes canceled. The UC Davis hospitals, primary care clinics, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and Student Health and Wellness Center will remain open. The N95 masks will be available at the Memorial Union and the UC Davis Fire Department later today. The UC Davis Police and Fire departments are continuing normal operations. We will provide further updates later today.

      1. Howard P

        BTW… a conservative precaution… not sure I’m going to be buying any… but those with compromised respiratory system, might be a good idea… or, could be “natural selection” at work…

  3. David Greenwald Post author

    To the Associated Students of the University of California at Davis,

    We, the Senators, Commission Chairs and Executive Office of the University of California Davis, are writing to express our satisfaction with the decision of the UC Davis administration to cancel classes on Wednesday, November 14th.

    This decision by the UC Davis Administration was the result of student activism and student leaders communicating to administration on behalf the student body. Within minutes of hearing of the UC Davis Administration’s decision not to cancel classes on Wednesday, November 14th despite the hazardous air quality, students took action .

    Within the span of just a few hours, students had come together from across the campus to reach out to their Administration and student leaders. As a campus, we fought to protect student health and wellness. We did this through a petition which garnered over 15,000 signatures , statements, emails, facebook posts, and a lot of memes. All of these are examples of how a student body can unite and come together to support one common goal.

    As student leaders at the University of California, Davis, we are heartened to see that student unity and activism have yielded a positive solution. We express our gratitude to the administration for reversing their decisions, but mostly to the students who made it happen.

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