Some UC Berkeley classes canceled, activities postponed because of poor air quality

Ana Isabel Diaz/Staff

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As the North Bay wildfires continue to deteriorate air quality around campus, some UC Berkeley professors are canceling classes in light of health concerns related to potential smoke and pollutant inhalation.

At least one section of both History 100AP and History of Art R1B were canceled Thursday as a result of the air conditions. Campus associate professor of art history Diliana Angelova, who teaches History 100AP, sent an email to her students Wednesday evening to notify them that class would be canceled the next day because the air was making her feel sick. She also advised her students to stay indoors and acquire masks if they need to go outdoors.

Campus junior Shaina Meier, who is enrolled in History 100AP, praised Angelova’s decision to cancel her class.

“I have asthma and I had to skip a different class today as well because of the air quality,” Meier said in an email. “I think it was respectful of the students who have family/homes affected by the fires.”

UC Berkeley will officially remain open this week, and professors wishing to cancel classes and organizations planning on postponing events may do so at their own discretion, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Gilmore also encouraged students to verify if outdoor events they planned on attending have been canceled.

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress said that although outdoor activities will be limited, BUSD schools will remain open. Absences of those students who wish to stay at home because of health concerns, however, will be excused, according to Burress.

“This decision was not easy,” Burress said in an email. “Given our individual circumstances, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to keep our schools open as the centers of learning and community that they can be, even when times are tough.”

The ASUC Senate’s regular Wednesday meeting was canceled this week because several senators had expressed health concerns ranging from lung irritation to difficulty breathing. Senator Taehan Lee said several senators are planning on using their semesterly discretionary funds, which total $250 per senator, to purchase air masks in bulk that will be distributed to students on Sproul Plaza. Lee added, however, that senators are still unsure about the number of air masks that will be bought, which he said might limit the effectiveness of the effort.

Senator Madison Miller said in an email that several of her friends in the Greek community have lost their homes and belongings in the fires. Her sorority, Alpha Phi, is working closely with the Panhellenic Council and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority to fundraise and collect donations that will be distributed to the affected areas in the North Bay.

Miller also said some of the funds will be allocated toward purchasing air masks for the local homeless community in Berkeley.

“Because they may have a decreased opportunity to escape the poor air quality, it’s important to also remember those affected in this capacity when thinking of fire relief efforts,” Miller said in an email.

Azwar Shakeel is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.