Campus & community, Campus news

Worsening air quality forces cancellation of classes

With the Air Quality Index surpassing 200, the Cal-Stanford classic has been postponed until Dec. 1

EPA map of air quality in the Bay Area as of 4 p.m. Thursday
Chancellor Carol Christ sent this message to the UC Berkeley community late Thursday afternoon:

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to update you on the latest air quality readings, decisions regarding tomorrow’s class schedule and the status of Saturday’s Big Game.

As noted in previous messages, we have been closely tracking current air quality data, as well as forecasts for Berkeley. As of 3 p.m. today, the reading for the closest monitor, located in Aquatic Park, indicates that the Air Quality Index (AQI) surpassed 200, the level at which our guidelines require consideration of class cancellations. In addition, the forecast for tomorrow from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District now indicates that conditions are expected to deteriorate. In that context, and based on the guidance of experts on campus, we must assume that the 200 AQI threshold will be exceeded tomorrow. As a result, we have decided to cancel all classes for the remainder of the day today, and on Friday.

EPA map of air quality in the Bay Area as of 4 p.m. ThursdayWhile the campus is now essentially closed, there are a limited number of campus operations that must continue. They include University Health Services, dining halls and residential facilities, the optometry clinic, UCPD, OLAC and the Office of Environment, Health & Safety. This is not a comprehensive list. Staff members who are uncertain about whether their duties can be filled from home or have other questions should consult with their supervisors.

If you have organized an event, please consider whether it should be re-scheduled. We recommend that everyone check appropriate websites for updated information about scheduled cultural and academic events.

The Tang Center has a limited supply of appropriate “N-95” respirators available for those students with medical conditions that may make them particularly susceptible to the impact of degraded air quality, and medical staff at the center are reaching out to students with asthma diagnoses. However, it should be noted that even these relatively advanced masks provide limited protection and are not a substitute for staying indoors, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.  Please see the updated page at University Health Services.

For additional information about how to protect yourself, indoors and out, from wildfire smoke, see this guide provided by the Centers for Disease Control

Insofar as Saturday afternoon’s Big Game is concerned, we are relying on the same standards, practices, data and expert guidance that have supported our decisions to date. At this point, the forecast indicates there could be an improvement in air quality on Saturday due to changes in wind patterns. So, while we realize there is potential for inconvenience we will defer any decisions about the status of the game until closer to the game, a time when the decision can be made based on actual conditions in our area.

So long as the Northern California fires continue to burn we will continue to monitor developments, make decisions based on the best possible data and expert advice, and keep the campus community informed with daily updates.


Carol T. Christ, Chancellor

Earlier in the day, the chancellor sent out this fire update:

Dear Campus Community,

In recent days the pall of heavy smoke over the Bay Area has served as a constant reminder of the tragic, destructive fires enveloping communities across our state. The number of lives, homes, and businesses lost is staggering and unprecedented. The efforts of thousands of firefighters who are putting themselves in harm’s way are nothing short of heroic. On behalf of our campus, I offer our sincere condolences to the loved ones of those who have perished, our support for the injured and displaced, and our appreciation to the first responders.

If you are interested in helping out, the state of California is providing information about volunteer opportunities and vetted organizations that are collecting financial contributions. That information is available on the state’s website.

Here on our campus, the Office of the Dean of Students is providing support and services for students who have been affected. If you need assistance, or know someone who does, please do not hesitate to contact that office at: [email protected]

For staff and faculty, the Office of the President is providing information about how to access Emergency support from UC benefit plans. In addition, our faculty and staff assistance programs offer free, confidential resources for emotional health needs to campus employees.

The fires are also having an obvious impact on campus life, and I want to provide an update on the Big Game and related activities, as well as Friday’s class schedule.

While some forecasts predict improving conditions by the weekend, we will not hesitate to re-evaluate plans for Saturday’s Big Game. Cal Athletics will, as always, comply with NCAA/Pac12 guidelines in this regard to ensure that we safeguard the health and well-being of our student-athletes, fans, and community members. Updated information from Cal Athletics is available here.

With the fires still not completely contained, and with losses continuing to mount, we have also decided that we must, out of respect and solidarity, modify one of our traditional and most beloved events, the Big Game Rally, organized by the student Rally Committee. As California’s flagship public university, this is not the right time for us to use bonfires, flames, or fireworks as a means of celebration or as a way to lift our school spirit, when so many are suffering, grieving, and sacrificing.

I realize that this decision was difficult and disappointing for the dedicated, hard-working members of the Rally Committee, and for all of our community members who were looking forward to participating in what is a wonderful campus event. We will, instead, observe a moment of silence and reflection to honor our fellow Californians who have perished in the fires. I deeply appreciate the Rally Committee’s understanding, as well as their concerted and ongoing efforts to arrange for an alternative to the traditional bonfire.

There are, of course, many other Big Game activities scheduled, and you can read about them all here Spirit Week events.

We know that the air quality in recent days is having an impact on the health and well-being of many in our community. We ask that you take the necessary precautions and seek help, if needed, from our healthcare professionals at the Tang Center. The decision to maintain today’s class schedule was not taken lightly, and was based on the best possible data we could gather, as well as guidance we received from the campus physician and experts in our Office of Environment, Health & Safety. The data and forecasts we are relying on are provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

We will be evaluating updated data as it is made available, and will not hesitate to go beyond current restrictions on outdoor activities if the air quality levels deteriorate and/or advice from our medical and environmental professionals indicates that classes and other, indoor campus activities should be cancelled. Once we have updated data and forecasts later today, we will decide whether classes will be held tomorrow and inform the campus no later than 6pm this evening.


Carol T. Christ, Chancellor