A whirlwind of opinions has been traversing the Wilfrid Laurier University campus since Oct. 3, when a proposal to introduce fall study days – which may result in classes beginning on the Thursday after Labour Day – was approved by the senate academic planning committee. The proposal will be presented at the senate and board meeting on Wednesday by registrar and commissioner of oaths Ray Darling who took on the role of managing the project.
In the time in between, WLU students on social networking sites have been grappling with the implications of the proposal and are forming their own contrasting opinions.
“It sounds like there are people who are supportive of the proposal, some who are not and some who are concerned about the impact on orientation week,” explained Darling, who has received a few phone calls in reference to the proposal.
The intent of the proposal is, as Darling puts it, to “help students in the fall term, particularly first year students.” To accomplish this, a two day reading break will be added to the end of October, in turn making it necessary for the school year to start on the Thursday after Labour Day.
This has left many WLU students feeling like they are choosing between orientation week (O-Week) or a reading break that will help them catch up.
Third-year business student and 2011 O-Week ice breaker Kaitlin Johnson is undecided on whether she supports the proposal.
“I’m still on the fence,” she said. “Because I think it’s a great idea, but then I also think that given a break, the majority of students will be partying more than actually getting things done.” She is also concerned about what the proposal means for O-Week, and whether shortening it will impact it negatively.
Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) president and CEO Nick Gibson recognizes the reality of this apprehension.
“There is a lot of concern and anxiety around the orientation program and how it relates to the reading break,” he said. However, Gibson believes this simply reflects the commitment, enthusiasm and passion of the volunteers.
The culture of volunteers at WLU exists in such a way that Gibson would, in fact, be upset if there wasn’t a passionate response. He believes that it’s a completely natural reaction, and has had many students bring their concern to his office.
Conversely, third-year business and co-op student and 2011 O-Week ice breaker Stephen Franchetto has a different opinion on the proposal and what it means for WLU.
“I think it’s got a lot of value, and a lot of people don’t see it,” he said. Franchetto hopes that the proposal is passed because he feels it’s important for the union to do more to support mental health initiatives.
Franchetto explains his own conviction, “If we don’t start somewhere, we’re not starting.”
However, there has been some opposition by WLU students to the proposal as a petition and a survey has been circulating around campus through sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Ultimately, I think the petition is a good thing,” Franchetto imparts. “If we are really about representing students’ interest, students should be able to talk about it.”
Jordan Epstein, a third-year kinesiology student and two-time ice breaker, helped to set up the petition. His own opinion revolves around the fact that this is the first year data was provided to see how well O-Week prepares students academically. In this respect, Epstein doesn’t think the proposal makes much sense.
“They start this survey this year, the data comes out in November, and they’re making this decision in October,” Epstein explained.
Epstein said the current goal for the petition is 2,000 students. This aim will hopefully give them more of an advantage when the petition is taken to the senate. As of print time, approximately 530 students have signed the petition and around 600 have filled out the survey, with two-thirds of those students rejecting the change.
Gibson isn’t certain if the petition will ultimately sway the senate’s decision.
“I think the biggest thing that the petition will show is that, regardless of whether the proposal is passed, students are very concerned about the orientation program and making sure that it is the best that it could possibly be,” he said.
“Even if the proposal goes through, the petition doesn’t become irrelevant anymore.”
Darling agrees, pointing out that if the senate decides implementing a fall reading break is not worth the change because it won’t benefit the students, he won’t be too upset.
“I just want whatever is best for the university,” he concludes. “I’ve heard about the Facebook group, I’ve heard about the petition and I hope that those things will be brought forward to the senate. They should be part of the discussion for sure.”
–With files from Justin Smirlies