GSA takes proactive approach to reading week

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Graduate Students’ Association has taken a proactive approach to finding out how graduate students felt about the new fall reading week.

Kayleigh Abbot, vice-president of academics and research of the GSA, created a survey as a way to obtain data from graduate students about their opinions on the new reading week. It was distributed Oct. 20 through e-mail and a newsletter.

“We created the reading week survey for the purposes of soliciting information back from graduate students because from my point of view, I didn’t see any type of information being collected from university level, student publication level or graduate students,” said Abbott.

The idea for the survey was influenced by a survey on fall reading week by the University of Windsor. The GSA’s survey has received 280 responses from graduate students and included questions about how students felt about the reading week.

One question asked if it was properly conveyed that the fall reading week was for both graduate students and undergraduate students. 68 per cent indicated “yes” and 32 per cent said “no.”

“Most people believe that fall reading week is to support student learning and success and to support personal health and wellness,” Abbott said on what most students said to be the goal of the week.

According to Abbott, an anonymous professor said graduate students do not deserve a reading week since their “job” is to remain stressed and their mental health doesn’t matter.

“Mental health looks different for a graduate student rather than an undergraduate student and the fact that you have different things to juggle, whether that’s family or financial things for graduate students, so we all have different levels of mental health,” Abbott, who is also a mental health education coordinator, said. “But that doesn’t make the depression different for a graduate student versus an undergraduate student.”

Robert Bruce, president and CEO of the GSA, believes the survey is necessary because some faculty members think having a reading week is not a concern of the university for the wellbeing of students and faculty.

“As a student leader, it’s very concerning for us because you get into the statistics of suicide and mental illness and we’re in the prime age group for being susceptible to them,” Bruce said. “So to have someone come out and say something like that publicly is very off-putting and it just emphasizes the importance of a student organization to take the initiative to get the data that we can then take back to the university and show them that this is what students are saying.”

52 per cent of students were aware that university services, such as the Wellness Centre, were open during reading week.

“That means that 50 per cent of all the students that filled out the survey actually knew they could access university services, so that’s not necessarily good relating to mental health,” Abbott explained.

According to Abbott and Bruce, the most important question asked if students favour the continuation of the fall reading week — 94 per cent were in favour and 82 per cent said the timing of the break was good.

The GSA is still looking to receive more feedback.

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