Laurier’s short holiday break is regrettable
Wilfrid Laurier University is one of the lucky few Ontario universities that returned for the winter term this week. Along with McMaster, York and the University of Waterloo, Laurier started earlier than every other university in the province.
The point of this editorial is not to whine and suggest that we wanted more time off for the sake of having more time off. Instead, it is to suggest that this speaks to systemic issues at the university and the constraints the administration must consider.
For students who had exams right up until the final day on Dec. 21, they had a measly eight business days off, much of which was inevitably filled with holiday travel and endless family gatherings, leaving little time for much needed relaxation.
With ever-growing enrolment and the inability of the Laurier’s physical space to keep up with the high number of students, the exam period is inevitably longer than at other institutions. It is understandable that the university needs to get students back as soon as possible to fit in the necessary exam days at the end of the term.
However, the university must consider the implications of endlessly admitting new undergraduate students and lowering admission requirements in order to do so. While the faculty of arts debated this and realized the danger of low entrance averages, this remains an issue at the university as a whole.
The lack of a sufficient holiday break is not just a scheduling issue or a trivial and petty concern. It is directly related to this university’s serious lack of foresight in addressing issues of mental health.
Earlier this year, the university administration also struck down the proposition of a fall reading week for next year. According to a recent article appearing in the Globe and Mail, 15 per cent of students have been diagnosed with some sort of mental health issue and suicide is the second leading cause of death among students.
Higher education should be challenging. It should not be easy for those who simply wish to purchase a ticket to better careers and higher-paying positions. Yet, it should not be so challenging that it ignores the basic needs of students. Students are aware that this is not supposed to be a cakewalk but one can only handle so many successive weeks of midterms, essays, projects and finals without a much needed break.
The vast majority of Ontario universities have recognized this and as Laurier students start attending our classes, their students are blissfully spending time at home with friends and families, collecting their thoughts and readying themselves for another term.
As the term winds down in April and Laurier is still writing exams even as others have finished, this difference will be even more pronounced. It would behoove the university administration to consider the impact of their admission decisions on their existing students and recognize the paramount need for downtime.
—The Cord Editorial Board