Classes initially scheduled to resume Wednesday, university apologizes for any “stress or inconveniences”
UC Davis has backtracked on an initial statement made on Tuesday evening that classes would resume Wednesday morning and decided to cancel classes today, for the second consecutive day, due to poor air quality.
The UC Davis News Service released a statement and distributed it to students’ emails that classes would resume on Wednesday, Nov. 14 after a day of cancelled class on Nov. 13. Students took to social media to condemn the universities actions via online petitions and statements.
A petition on Change.org titled “UC Davis: Cancel Classes for Nov. 14 2018 Due to Worsening Air Quality,” created by Brianna Asimov, a first-year animal biology major, had received over 14,700 signatures just four hours after UC Davis’ statement was released. As of 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, it had just over 17,000 signatures.
At 6:50 a.m. on Wednesday, the statement was updated by the news service, acknowledging the campus community’s concerns and cancelling classes after all.
“Chancellor May and other campus leaders have heard the community’s concerns,” the Wednesday morning statement said. “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 Air Quality Index (AQI) in Davis on Nov. 13 was 174, marked as “unhealthy.” The AQI as of 10 a.m. Wednesday was 152, which is still considered unhealthy.
The original statement sent on Tuesday evening said, “after consulting with [their] UC Davis health and fire experts and monitoring updated guidance from other public health experts regarding air quality,” class would resume. Outdoor activities were to remain cancelled, with Unitrans offering free rides for students, faculty and staff. Students and staff who did not feel able to attend class or work were encouraged to make accomodations with their instructors and/or supervisors.
The updated statement on Wednesday, however, told the campus community N95 masks are available at the Memorial Union and the UC Davis Fire Department, which is continuing “normal operations.” The Student Health and Wellness Center remains open.
The decision on whether or not to cancel classes is a joint decision made “by campus leadership in coordination with the Academic Senate,” according to the statement from UC Davis. “UC Davis and regional health and fire experts [are] also consulted.”
Individuals were advised to, “minimize outdoor activity and stay inside whenever possible, keep all windows, doors and vents shut, if you exercise, only do so indoors.”
A letter written to UC Davis Administration by student leaders in conjunction with the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission and signed by myriad student groups expressed disappointment in the university’s decision to resume classes on Wednesday, Nov. 14. Among the signatures were the Davis United Students Against Sweatshops Local 143, the Black Student Union and the Muslim Student Association.
“No employee should have to risk their health for their job, and we hope that the Administration understands that if students cannot be on campus due to hazardous air conditions, then so should be the case with all employees on our campus,” the letter said.
The letter demanded that, if a similar situation were to occur again, workers should be given paid leave. It also called for a greater amount of protective masks to be made available on campus.
The ASUCD Executive Office released a statement via Facebook sharing in the disappointment over the initial decision to conduct classes on Wednesday.
“As one of the largest universities by square footage, our students are required to travel prolonged distances in order to navigate campus,” the statement said. “The most convenient form of transportation for students on campus is via bicycle which is ‘physical outdoor activity’ and a recreation that was advised to be avoided by the administration.”
The statement encouraged administration to “reconsider the postponing of classes until the air quality improves.”
ASUCD senators and commission chairs also released a statement via Facebook.
The statement critiqued administration’s decision to resume classes and their efforts to provide relief for students.
“UC Davis has offered free busing service to students, which for undergraduates is already free, and masks which are in a limited supply,” the statement said. “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.”
Further updates on the state of classes for the rest of this week will be released later today.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that the letter from student leaders was not publicly accessible. It is available on the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Facebook page. The article has been updated with the link. The Aggie regrets the error.
Written by: Elizabeth Mercado — firstname.lastname@example.org