UC Berkeley to allow formal instruction during part of Reading, Review, Recitation Week

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley has decided to allow formal instruction during the Monday and Tuesday of Reading, Review and Recitation Week, or RRR week — commonly referred to as “dead week” — to make up for lost class time after the campus canceled instruction because of poor air quality.

RRR week was instituted to allow students time to write papers, work on projects and study before their final exams. While it is officially the last week of instruction, ordinarily no formal instruction takes place — mandatory classes may not be held and new material may not be introduced. This year, the campus will allow formal instruction during the first two days of RRR week in order to counteract lost time from the cancellation of classes between Nov. 15 and 20, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The campus community was informed of the change to RRR week through emails sent Monday. In the letters sent to students and faculty, administrators said the decision to allow formal instruction for the first two days of RRR week was made by the Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction, or COCI — the body that reviews, coordinates and takes final action on all matters relating to courses of instruction.

According to the email sent to faculty and instructors, using part of RRR week to make up for lost class time “coheres with stated COCI policy.”

“There is a strong preference from COCI that only Monday and Tuesday be used for makeup so that students have sufficient time to prepare for final examinations and complete projects and presentations normally scheduled for RRR week,” said the letter sent to campus faculty and instructors Monday.

The letter added that some scheduling conflicts will not be avoidable, and instructors can meet their educational goals through methods such as adding office hours or supplemental material via bCourses.

Administrators also encouraged faculty to implement any instructional measures in a “flexible manner” so that all parties can adapt to the new circumstances.

“We understand the additional burden placed on both instructors and students by the cancellation of classes and makeup work,” the administrators said in the email. “We have been heartened by the broad support across the Berkeley community for the well-being of our students during this challenging time, and take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your commitment and professional dedication.”

The decision to allow formal instruction time during part of RRR week came after the campus decided to cancel classes beginning Thursday because of poor air quality from the Butte County Camp Fire.

According to Mogulof, the administration consulted weather and air quality forecasts, including air quality index data. The administration also received guidance from campus medical and environmental experts as well as the Academic Senate in determining the cancellation of classes.

On Sunday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ extended the cancellation, informing the campus that classes would not take place on the Monday and Tuesday before the Thanksgiving academic and administrative holiday.

“For the Sunday decision, we also took into account the proximity of the holiday break — students need to make travel plans — and reports that many students had already departed campus,” Mogulof said.

Mogulof added that the campus decision-making process relied on numerous factors and “expert” guidance, given that it was managing a “dynamic and at times hard-to-predict” situation.

The campus operated normally Monday and will continue to do so Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Campus restaurants such as Brown’s, Common Grounds, Terrace Cafe and The Pro Shop will be closed. The Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union will operate with shortened hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

According to Christ’s Sunday email, certain buildings on campus provide some relief from the poor outside air. The East Asian Library, Gardner Main Stacks, the Haas School of Business complex and the Law Library are among the buildings with the best air-filtration systems, providing 20 to 40 percent better air than outside conditions.

In the email, Christ also encouraged anyone particularly susceptible to degraded air quality to remain indoors.

The ASUC has also remained active throughout the weekend by distributing masks Thursday and Friday to help protect students from the smoke.

“We were continually advocating for the cancellation of classes and prioritization of student health,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay in an email. “I think we helped folks protect themselves from the smoke via masks, and provided information about the masks as well as regular updates on the situation with cancellation of classes.”

Students have reported feeling numerous health effects from the poor air quality such as coughing, difficulty breathing and lower moods.

Campus sophomore Josie Christon said she remained indoors to study this weekend and had to rely on her inhaler for the first time in a while.

“The air quality is really not great,” Christon said. “I think it was a good decision to cancel classes, especially because I know a lot of people have already left. Most of my professors had canceled quizzes and other things, anyways.”

Contact Stanley von Ehrenstein-Smith and Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that the campus does not usually allow any instruction during Reading, Review and Recitation week. In fact, it does not allow formal instruction that week, but instructors are authorized to hold optional classes or review sessions during that time.