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FAQ: Campus Closure Due to Air Quality

Nov. 19, 2018

How bad must air quality be before classes are canceled and the campus closed?

UC Merced’s decisions are guided by real-time data related to air quality; air quality trends and predictions; National Weather Service data and predications related to atmospheric conditions that impact air quality; and recommendations from public health experts. 

If campus administrators have data-informed reasons to believe that air quality will reach the “very unhealthy” level, then an important threshold is reached for determining if classes should be canceled or the campus closed. This is the level at which even healthy people, with no underlying lung or heart conditions, are advised to avoid outdoor activity.

At lesser levels, including “moderate” and “unhealthy,” the campus will issue health advisories. As needed, the campus will allow for missed classes and work during that time for those with sensitive health conditions.

What’s the difference between class cancelation and campus closure?

Classes can be canceled under special circumstance while the campus remains open. On Sunday, Nov. 18, the campus canceled classes for students for Nov. 19 and 20, but only closed campus for Nov. 19. The longer class cancelation period was in recognition both of the very unhealthy air quality likely on those days and the knowledge that many students had already gone home to escape the bad air and enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.

If the air quality reaches the “very unhealthy” level on Nov. 20 and 21, then the campus closure will be extended.

Who has to work when the campus is closed?

Usually a number of essential services are maintained during a campus closure. These are often maintained at reduced staffing levels. Staff will be notified by supervisors if they are needed for essential functions during a campus closure.

Because the current campus closure is due to very unhealthy air quality, if you are asked to work by your supervisor and this work exposes you to air quality conditions that would exacerbate underlying heart, lung and respiratory conditions, please let your supervisor know and he or she will work to find a substitute.

Campus closures due to very unhealthy air quality are not vacation days. If you can work from home and are asked to do so, then you should comply. Supervisors should not ask staff to work from home or other remote locations unless staff have the necessary tools (e.g., computers) to do so.

Do I get paid for work missed during a campus closure?

The chancellor has authority, within certain limits, to allow staff to continue to receive their regular pay during a campus closure. Chancellor Leland has authorized this for the recent campus closures that were necessitated by very unhealthy air quality.

How do I report my time during the campus closure?

Campus Guidelines

  • All staff employees (career, probationary, contract, limited, temporary, casual/restricted, student) who were scheduled to work during the closure period will be paid their regular compensation.
  • Employees with previously scheduled sick leave, vacation, personal time off, or CTO will use appropriate leave accruals for that time. Employees who were designated as essential and expected to work and who were absent are required to record their absence as sick time.
  • Consistent with normal procedures, supervisors and managers are responsible for ensuring time is recorded and for reviewing and approving time off with pay during the closure period.

Additional Information

  • No action is needed for campus salaried employees.
  • For the bi-weekly cycle of 11/18-12/1/18; employees should indicate in the comments section of their TRS timesheet if they DID NOT physically work each scheduled day of the closure. IF no comments during the closure dates from this period are indicated, the assumption will be time reported is for actual work performed.
    • Time should be entered for all hourly staff and student employees based on their scheduled or customary number of work hours during the closure
    • The notes section of the time entry should include the following (Date, Closure) to reflect that the pay is for time not worked but paid due to the closure.
  • As noted above, if employees had previously scheduled sick leave, vacation, personal time off, or CTO, those hours should be entered into the timekeeping system as usual, and approved by the supervisor.
  • If an employee was designated as essential and required to come to work, but was absent or went home, the missed time should be recorded as sick time or leave without pay as appropriate.
  • Once entered into the time keeping system, the normal approval routing processes will occur.

How can faculty help?

Class cancelations disrupt student learning and can also impact the time to deliver specific course material, projects and assignments, and exams. All faculty have the authority to make changes to their course while it is in progress, including the number of assignments and midterms, as long as all changes are applied equitably to every student in the course. As students may have had limited access to computer labs, studios and classmates for group assignments, faculty may need to adjust due dates to allow students to complete the work.

Per campus policy, if a midterm is rescheduled as a result of the closure, the exam must be offered during a regularly scheduled class period, during an out-of-class time to which each student in the course has agreed, or via a take-home exam due during a regularly scheduled class time once classes resume. Faculty members also have discretion to use online resources to continue education during a closure, but only in a way that is equitable for all students.

Will the semester need to be extended due to the canceled classes?

As of now, the campus will not need to extend the semester to account for the four days of canceled instruction.