Updates on Air Quality and Campus Impact: Fall 2020

October 4, 2020 9:24 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on October 4, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Air quality levels around San José State University have improved over the past 24 hours and are expected to continue to improve throughout today, October 4. Based on these improvements, effective immediately, the SJSU campus is REOPENED. 

In-person classes and services will resume Monday, October 5. The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also reopened. 

Please note that as wildfires continue to rage north of San José, we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated by email, the SJSU Newsroom site and SJSU’s Twitter

Thank you for your continued patience, flexibility and kindness as we continue to navigate this fall semester.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


October 2, 2020 10:52 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on October 2, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

With wildfires raging north of San José, unhealthy air quality levels have returned on and around the campus, and likely will remain through the weekend. Effective immediately, the San José State University campus is CLOSED. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. The campus will remain closed until further notice as we continue to assess the air quality.

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also closed. 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Sunday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 15, 2020 5:37 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 15, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

As we continue to closely monitor the air quality levels around San José State University, we have noticed an improvement in the past 24 hours. Based on current conditions and predicted air quality levels for Wednesday (September 16), the SJSU campus will REOPEN tomorrow. 

In-person classes and services will resume as well. Although we are hopeful for favorable air quality levels tomorrow, please note that we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated by email, the SJSU Newsroom site and SJSU’s Twitter

The continued toll of COVID-19 and the poor air quality caused by wildfires across the state can lead to mental and emotional stress. Please remember SJSU is here to help. Students can access counseling through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and employees can utilize the confidential Employee Assistance Program. The SJSU Cares Program is also available to address any unforeseen financial crises, including housing or food needs.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 14, 2020 6:23 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 14, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

After reviewing monitoring station observations throughout the day and the air quality forecast from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the San José State University campus will remain CLOSED Tuesday, September 15. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. In-person classes are canceled.

Due to the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons and Village Market
  • Student Health Center (8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Spartan Food Pantry (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will remain closed. 

Only those whose presence is deemed essential by your supervisor should be on campus on Tuesday.

We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Tuesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality in the area. 

We must continue to practice patience, flexibility and kindness as our fall semester has been interrupted again. Continue to keep all first responders and those directly affected by the fires in your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 13, 2020 6:28 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 13, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

With unhealthy air quality levels expected to continue around the campus, the San José State University campus will remain CLOSED Monday, September 14. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. 

Due to the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center (8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Spartan Food Pantry (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will also remain closed. 

Only those whose presence is deemed essential by your supervisor should be on campus on Monday.

Current projections indicate that it may be safe to reopen campus on Tuesday. We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Monday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality in the area. 

Please continue to keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who may be affected by these fires in your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 11, 2020 9:56 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 11, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Due to a recent spike of unhealthy air quality levels on and around the campus caused by wildfires north of San José, effective immediately, the San José State University campus is CLOSED. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also closed. 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

The campus will remain closed through the weekend as we continue to assess the air quality. When it is safe to reopen the campus, we will notify the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


August 26, 2020 6:22 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 26, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Air quality levels appear to have stabilized at a level where campus can reopen as previously outlined in the SJSU Adapt plan, including in-person classes, which can continue as scheduled. 

A reminder for students, faculty and staff: We understand that you may be directly impacted by the fires. I encourage you to reach out to your professor, students or supervisor if you are unable to attend class or conduct your work duties. We must continue to practice patience, kindness and flexibility as campus community members care for their safety, health and well-being.

Student Specialized Instructional Support Center

SJSU has converted Ballroom A/B in the Diaz Compean Student Union into a Student Specialized Instructional Support Center. The area will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students may enter the Student Union using their Tower ID cards at the West Entrance (7th Street Paseo) and must complete the self-check requirements. 

FEMA Assistance

For those affected by the wildfires, FEMA recently activated its Individual Assistance program for residents in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties. Eligible individuals and families have 60 days to apply for direct grants from FEMA for damages that are not covered by insurance. Contact FEMA by visiting their website, downloading the FEMA app and registering on your smartphone or tablet, or by calling 800-621-3362.

At this time, we encourage you to continue to follow the running blog on the SJSU Newsroom site. We will email the campus community again if air quality concerns worsen to the point where we would need to close campus again.

We continue to keep those affected and our firefighters and first responders in our thoughts. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 25, 2020 5:08 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 25, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

As we continue to closely monitor the air quality levels around San José State University, we have noticed an improvement in the past 24 hours. Based on current conditions and predicted fire and wind conditions for Wednesday (August 26), the SJSU campus will reopen tomorrow. 

In-person classes will resume as well. Although we are hopeful for favorable air quality levels tomorrow, please note that we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated during the day via email and SJSU’s Twitter

For students: Even though we are making in-person courses available, you should check with your faculty member before class, as we know some faculty, staff, and students have been directly impacted by the fires. Thank you for continuing to be patient as our campus community members focus on addressing their personal health, safety, and well-being.

For Faculty and Staff: We know that you may be directly impacted by the fires. If you can’t make it to class or work, please advise your supervisor and, if needed, students as well. Please remember that students may also be directly impacted by the fires. Please make sure that we are being flexible in completing early assignments and course requirements. If students are not present in either an online or in-person class, please give them time to get in contact with you. 

The limited services on campus include:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Spartan Food Pantry
  • Spartan Bookstore
  • Diaz Compean Student Union

An update will be provided to the campus community late Wednesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

The continued toll of COVID-19 and the wildfires can lead to mental and emotional stress. Please remember SJSU is here to help. Students can access counseling through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and employees can utilize the confidential Employee Assistance Program. The SJSU Cares Program is also available to address any unforeseen financial crises, including housing or food needs.

Kindness, patience and flexibility continue to be the attributes we need the most during this time. Our Spartan family remains strong, and we will continue to look out for one another.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 23, 2020 5:24 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 23, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

We continue to experience unhealthy levels of air quality around the SJSU campus. Because of this, the physical campus will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday (August 24-25). Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. In-person classes are canceled. Only essential personnel who have been cleared by their supervisor to work on campus will be allowed on campus. Faculty and students who are approved to come to campus for research-related purposes are also allowed on campus. 

Our current decisions are based on data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Cal Fire concerning air quality, fire incident information, evacuation orders, and our understanding of where our community members live. SJSU’s leadership team is actively monitoring weather and air quality forecasts, evacuation orders and warnings for these areas. 

We will update the campus community late Tuesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. Please continue to monitor the running blog on the SJSU Newsroom site should conditions change rapidly and a decision on the campus’ status for later in the week is made sooner than Tuesday afternoon. 

Consistent with our decisions last week, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

Please continue to keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who are affected by these fires in your thoughts. It is important that we show patience, kindness and flexibility to one another during this trying time. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 22, 2020 6:00 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 22, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

We continue to experience unhealthy levels of air quality around the SJSU campus. Because of this, campus will remain closed Sunday, August 23. Only essential personnel who have been cleared by their supervisor to work on campus Sunday will be allowed on campus.

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

An update will be provided to the campus community late Sunday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area ahead of the start of the first full week of the fall semester. Sunday’s update will include the status of in-person classes for Monday, August 24. At this time, all online classes and services should expect to continue as scheduled on Monday.

Please keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who are affected by these fires in your thoughts. It is important that we continue to show patience, kindness and flexibility to one another during this trying time. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 21, 2020 3:23 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 21, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Due to a recent spike to unhealthy levels of air quality on and around the campus, effective immediately, San José State University is CLOSED for the remainder of the day and Saturday. Online classes and services can continue as scheduled. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

An update will be provided to the campus community late tomorrow afternoon in regards to the status of the campus for Sunday as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

Our thoughts continue to be with our fellow Spartans and others who are affected by these fires. We must continue to be supportive of one another during this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


August 20, 2020 6:54 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 20, 2020.

Dear Spartan Community,

As California and the surrounding Bay Area is grappling with numerous forest fires, San José State University is thinking of your safety and wellness. If you have been impacted by evacuation orders or the effects of fires, staying focused on academics may be challenging amid worries about personal, family, and community needs. Please know that SJSU is ready to help. As we realize that many people are being displaced by the fires that surround our community, we have listed below some immediate resources available to members of our community. 

Support Services Available

For Students: 

  • SJSU Cares Program: To address unforeseen financial crises, including those related to housing or food needs, contact the SJSU Cares Program.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): To address social or emotional impacts, contact the CAPS office at 408-924-5910 (after hours assistance available via phone).
  • Please reach out to your faculty should you need help making connections to any of these support services noted. 

For Faculty/Staff:

Status of Campus Operations and Classes

SJSU will re-open the campus tomorrow for limited services. This includes the work of essential personnel as well as faculty and students who are approved to come to campus for research-related purposes. The Air Quality Index around campus has remained at a “moderate” level. Because of this, we will have restricted access to campus, but we are no longer at an emergency status caused by the wildfires and air quality concerns. 

Online classes will continue to operate under the same principles as today, with the continued understanding that we will excuse those who cannot attend because of the fires. In-person classes will not be offered because we will only have limited services available on campus. 

Normal campus activity will resume Saturday, and we hope to start in-person courses on Monday, August 24. An update will be provided to the campus community over the weekend as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

These are trying times, and the health and well-being of ourselves and our campus community members are always the top priority. Let us continue to show kindness, patience and flexibility to one another as we navigate this unsettling period of time.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Patrick K. Day

Vice President for Student Affairs


August 19, 2020 6:24 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 19, 2020. 

Editor’s note 2: All buildings will be closed with the exception of University Housing, Dining Commons and the Student Health Center.

Dear SJSU Campus Community,

We have been monitoring the wildfire situation closely and it is predicted that the air quality for tomorrow will remain at an unhealthy level. Therefore, operations on the physical campus will remain closed for Thursday and Friday (August 20-21). This means that no in-person courses or services will take place on campus. And, only essential personnel, as officially notified by their supervisors, will be on the campus. 

As context, we closed campus today because the Air Quality Index was at an “unhealthy” level and large numbers of students, faculty, and staff live in areas affected by the wildfires. These current wildfires, in fact, are much closer to San José State than recent ones. Given this, and knowing that many in our campus community live in evacuation zones, we wanted everyone to have ample opportunity to prepare should they have to relocate at a moment’s notice. We hope that with anticipated shifts in the winds and some level of containment, more students, faculty, and staff can find the time and space to engage in their education and work tomorrow. 

So, given that the majority of our courses and services are already planned for remote delivery, we have decided to hold online classes and resume support services beginning tomorrow morning (August 20). 

There are some caveats. If you are directly impacted by the fires (e.g., you might be evacuated tomorrow or over the weekend) or rolling power outages and:

  • You are Faculty: If you cannot find a way to teach your class tomorrow, you may cancel the class by notifying your department chair and messaging students in your class. Please note, because the physical campus is closed, faculty cannot come to campus to teach remote classes. 
  • You are a Student: If you are unable to make the assigned class time, you must do your best to notify your instructor as soon as possible.
  • You are Staff: If you are unable to perform your responsibilities remotely, please contact your supervisor. Otherwise, you are expected to resume your responsibilities remotely tomorrow morning, holding meetings, answering calls and questions, and managing the day-to-day operations of our offices.

We have to be patient, thoughtful, and supportive when and if classes are not able to meet or office staff are not available. We also have to be cognizant of our students and colleagues and their current situations. We can’t penalize each other for circumstances that are beyond the control of any one individual. Someone recently asked me, “are we going to have a policy if there are fires or rolling blackouts?” My answer, “kindness.” That stands. It’s a simple policy.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep everyone informed about next steps. We hope that those in our community who are directly impacted by the fires remain safe. We are here to support you. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 19, 2020 11:41 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 19, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Today, August 19, San José State University is CLOSED and cancelling all in person and online classes for the remainder of the day. This decision is based on air quality levels that are expected to rise to unhealthy levels throughout the day and health concerns already heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic for our SJSU community, including for those who are facing evacuations due to fires near their homes. With wildfires raging directly east and west of San José, we are monitoring air quality on and around the San José State University campus. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

Other than offices necessary for essential work, all operational- and service-related offices will also be closed today. Meetings, including those that are being held remotely, are canceled because no one should be working other than those officially identified as essential by their supervisors. We recognize that our campus community is dispersed throughout the Bay Area, and we want to ensure that we are not creating a disadvantage for those who are located in areas more impacted by the air quality, wildfires, or power outages. 

Our thoughts are with those who are having to evacuate their homes and the fire crews who are tirelessly working to put out the fires. 

By 6 p.m. today, we will re-evaluate air quality levels and update you on campus closure status through email and SJSU Twitter.

The expected weather conditions in the Bay Area for the rest of the week will likely cause the air quality to remain unhealthy. Precautions we can all consider include:

  • Limiting outdoor activities
  • Setting air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate (to prevent outside air from moving inside)
  • Reducing exposure to smoky air by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed, if possible

A good resource to refer to is the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website. The site offers current information on “Spare the Air” alerts, environmental news, and other advisories. Another good resource is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now Index

We understand this is not an ideal start to an already unprecedented fall semester. The health and safety of the campus community is always the top priority, especially when it comes to discussions of campus closure. We will continue to post updates at http://go.sjsu.edu/air-quality-2020.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Chemistry Unlocks the Key to How Wildflowers Beat Wildfires

female research student wearing safety google and blue latex glove. She is holding a flask sample of a solution she's purfied

In the lab, researcher Jia Lu separates and tests the components of a karrikin solution, giving her insight into how to improve the process (Christina Olivas photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Did you know that there are certain plants that grow more abundantly or only after a fire?

Deer Weed, Ithuriel’s Spear and Whispering Bells are examples of what Department of Chemistry Professor Daniel Straus calls “fire-followers.”

“These plants can lay dormant in the soil for 100 years, but after an intense fire, chemicals soak the soil and germinate seeds, causing them to grow,” Straus explained.

Straus studies compounds that affect the germination of geophytes, bulb plants that adapt to unfavorable climates and conditions, even blazing hot wildfires.

Professor Straus is specifically interested in reproducing the highly active germination stimulant karrikin, a molecule discovered in Australia less than 10 years ago and produced amid the smoke and water of wildfires.

“It can take up to two months to purify,” said researcher Jia Lu, ’11 forensic science. “So far I can make only a couple of milligrams because there are so many steps, but the process is getting better.”

Whispering Bells are among the wildflowers resilient after wildfires (californiachaparral.com photo).

Whispering Bells are entirely fire dependent (californiachaparral.com photo)

Learning From “Fire-Followers”

Field studies on how the reproduced karakin compound affects germination have been conducted at Henry W. Coe State Park. Modifying the process to make more karakin faster raises a new question: Would the substance have the same effect on vegetative plants, such as crop plants?

Straus is currently working with the Carnegie Institute for Science’s Department of Global Ecology on a first batch of tests focusing on flowering responses in bulb plants.

“So far there is a very strong vegetative response,” Straus said. “We’re noticing plants watered with the karrikin solution were growing very vigorously in comparison to the plants not watered with karrikin. That’s exciting, and worth trying on other kinds of plants.”