After UC Davis commencement halted by heat, students seek answers

Days after UC Davis officials cut short an outdoor opening ceremony amid intense heat that sickened dozens of people, students say the university has shown dangerous mismanagement, Poor planning and irresponsibility.

Several students reached out to The Times to share concerns, including the significant delays that made the June 10 ceremony a hot day of the day, a lack of water, and a ban on umbrellas and drinks. outside.

Radhika Gawde, incoming president of the UC Davis Student Association, said she and other student government representatives are pooling student concerns.

Gawde said that the heat beyond the forecast may have been out of the university’s control, but communication with students and families is still lacking.

“If it’s held outdoors, I think that’s fine as long as adequate precautions are taken,” Gawde said. “All I ask is contact, if I can be tracked, and other members of the student body. We are not asking for Taylor Swift [to speak]. We just don’t want anyone to end up in the hospital.”

For Mairéad Ryan, a UC Davis student who graduated this year, last week’s ceremony felt “like the last straw” after many disappointments throughout her college career.

Ryan and other students say the decision to hold a larger outdoor ceremony that incorporates multiple colleges caused delays even though students have already begun to register at UC Davis Health Stadium, a the open-air arena has essentially no shade, at 6 a.m. Friday.

According to accounts shared with The Times, despite the early start, the students did not begin their walk until after 10 a.m.

It was 88 degrees at the time, climbing to 90 degrees an hour later.

Julia Ann Easley, a spokeswoman for the university, told The Times last week there had been 36 heat-related medical calls and seven people hospitalized. Most medical calls are for heat-related illness, but they also include a two-vehicle crash, a fall, and a person’s ankle flip.

Ryan’s mother, Jennifer, said the heat and delays to the ceremony had her worried about her 86-year-old father, who has a bad back and is a skin cancer survivor. It is very dangerous for him to sit in the sun without protection.

She left to take the car to the disabled parking lot, but seeing that the drivers were gone, she was told she would return after the ceremony was over. A police officer called a driver over, and by the time Jennifer Ryan left with her father and his wife, at least 50 people were waiting behind them.

For some, the problems with starting school echo past health and safety concerns at UC Davis. Ryan said many students have lost faith in the university’s leadership, pointing to the administration’s initial decision to hold classes in smoky conditions from the 2018 Camp Fire before withdrawing. and delays in moving classes online in 2020 as COVID-19 kicks off the epidemic.

“My goal is not to criticize my school, but to hold the people in charge accountable and make the school better for the students who are still there,” Ryan said.

Paige Petschl, who graduated at the June 10 ceremony, said the UC Davis leaders “really fail the class of 2022.”

“None of the graduation ceremonies resulted in a heat stroke medical emergency,” says Petschl. “It prevents the amount of time our class has spent in Davis, which has been marked by adversities including pandemics, wildfires and more.”

Petschl and another student, who did not wish to be named, emailed The Times detailing their growing concerns as the heat rose and students wore suffocating polyester gowns and hats. Sick.

“While we waited to get in, we received no information about what the detention is, when we will start moving, or really anything,” Petschl and the other student wrote. . “Our family was also in the dark, as we were both getting frantic texts about where we were.”

Students were not provided with shade, fans or cold water, and many students waited at least 15 minutes for warm water rather than queuing to walk in the “unbearable” heat, Petschl and one student other said.

Both students, like Ryan, called for university administrators to be held accountable.

In statements, Easley and UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said organizers had planned for the hot weather with cooling stations, fog, fans, water and a live stream at the Union Center College Credit is air-conditioned, but accounts from attendees claim that many were unaware of the alternative location.

Officials also hope they will avoid the ill effects of the heat by starting early.

However, temperatures “rise earlier than expected,” May said. “We were informed at around 11:30 a.m. that conditions had deteriorated significantly and had reached a point where it was unsafe to continue.”

Organizers note that water supplies are depleted and there is no way to quickly replenish them, and with many students still waiting to walk, firefighters and public safety officials another ended the ceremony “immediately to avoid further crisis.”

“Again, I want to acknowledge the disappointment some of you have voiced about what should have been a time of celebration,” May said.

Gawde, the student union president, said she began contacting the administration soon after hearing that the June 10 ceremony had been cut short.

“I pretty much prioritize — fixing what happened to the Friday graduates and making sure that Saturday and Sunday go smoothly,” Gawde said.

She said managers have agreed to refund the $58 each graduate spent on the required hats, gowns and tassels. University officials said the refunds apply to students who didn’t walk in on June 10 or 11.

Easley, a university spokesman, said the June 11 ceremony saw four medical claims, none of which were for heat-related illness.

But to speed up the second day’s start, administrators initially planned to keep students out of the walk before pushing back that decision about 20 minutes before the ceremony. At the time, many students walked away, assuming they couldn’t walk — an error that could have been avoided if students were included in the planning process, Gawde said.

May said in her statement on Monday that the June 10 ceremony did not go as planned.

“While we did our best to minimize Friday morning’s high temperatures, I know it’s not going to be enough,” May said. “I apologize for the pain, anger and frustration many of you have experienced and expressed.”

He said officials are doing a survey to assess when to start applying makeup for students who can’t walk.

This year is the university’s first opening ceremony at the UC Davis Health Stadium, and Easley says it’s “very unlikely” that the ceremonies will return there next year.

Easley said the university plans to conduct a comprehensive review of its college start.

“While there are differing opinions on what happened, many questions will be answered once the review has gone through due process,” she said. “What we do know is that our graduates deserve a celebration of their achievements, and that is what we are committed to delivering.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-17/after-uc-davis-commencement-halted-by-heat-students-seek-answers After UC Davis commencement halted by heat, students seek answers

Edmund DeMarche

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