Fall reading days to be proposed to Laurier’s senate
On Nov. 11, a proposal for fall reading days will be presented to the academic planning committee, a sub-committee of Senate at Wilfrid Laurier University. From there, it will move on to the Senate meeting on Nov. 26 before the final decision is made to pass the document and implementation can begin for fall 2014.
Chris Walker, a student senator, has been working on the proposal in collaboration with Annie Constantinescu and Stephen Franchetto from the Students’ Union. Walker explained that his role has been facilitating consultation on the university side, while Constantinescu and Franchetto have been engaging with students.
“There’s two sides of it, but with the collaboration efforts we are able to cover as much ground as possible,” said Constantinescu, Students’ Union president and CEO.
The concept of fall reading days was first conceived in 2011 and has been considered by fall reading days committees since then, but to no fruition.
“It’s taken these past couple of years to get Laurier to a point where they’re much more on board with the proposal and they see the value of what it’s trying to get at- one that is focused on academic success through addressing mental health,” said Walker.
Over the past two years alone, five universities in Ontario have implemented fall reading days.
“Being realistic, Laurier was falling behind,” said Franchetto, vice president of student affairs at the Students’ Union. “At the point where it was last discussed, not too many schools actually had fall reading days implemented. But now we’re at 11.”
As part of the consultation, the proposal has been presented to all faculty divisional councils. The Students’ Union has spoken with Orientation Week (O-Week) volunteers and executives, put out a survey and hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit on the topic of fall reading days all in an effort to gather feedback and address concerns.
Franchetto claims that the student engagement has been good.
“I think the phrase that we hear all the time, whether its faculty, staff or students is: ‘we support the idea in principal,’” Franchetto explained. “People see the value in it; people see what the benefits are to it.”
But the issue has been in the details, he said.
“Right now it becomes a highly political process of how do you balance everybody’s needs,” he said, adding that they are looking for a happy medium.
Currently, the proposal outlines that classes will start two days earlier, on the Thursday and Friday following Labour Day. These would be Monday and Tuesday courses, as fall reading days will be on the Monday and Tuesday of week eight of classes
Monday and Tuesday were selected as days off because this is when students have the majority of their classes.
“The reason why it’s week eight is because we feel, to get the maximum amount of value out of it for students, [we should] put it at a time where there is peak for academic assignments,” Walker continued. “That tends to be later in the semester.”
This will help break up the term, because, as Walker put it, “it’s really a sprint after Thanksgiving until the end of exams.”
Classes will start earlier because the other option was to have Sunday exams. However, this would eliminate natural study days, as well as the buffer for the university to keep exams from running too late into the holidays.
Constantinescu spoke to the impact the change would have on O-Week.
“We definitely see the value in O-Week. We aren’t looking at cutting, we’re looking at repackaging.”
One of the ways this could happen would be starting move-in days on Saturday rather than Sunday.
“Right now, Laurier is one of the only seven-day orientation program lengths, whereas most have transitioned to five or six,” she said. “There’s benefits to both, but if we’re committed to the wellness of students by implementing fall reading days, then I think it’s something we can work on to make sure that both projects are maintained.”
Franchetto expressed his confidence in the proposal as it goes to Senate, saying, “I think we’re confident that we can overcome the issues that we have.”
“So, knock on wood, but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction and that by the end of the process we’ll have got something that I think we can pass it.”