Point • Counter-point: Fall reading week
In the last few weeks there has been a growing discussion on campus on whether or not to institute a fall reading week. This follows a growing trend across Canada of universities choosing to come back to school earlier in September in order to have a week off midway through the term. At Laurier we have yet to implement this, largely because to have a full week off it would mean we would have to start school a week earlier or have a shorter orientation week and classes that end closer to exam time.
I support the latter option as most students at Laurier are not in first year and a reduction of O-Week is largely a first-year issue. In this case I believe that Laurier needs a reading week in the fall term and that in order to do so part of O-Week is going to have to be sacrificed. I do not favour the first option of starting school a week earlier because it would mean that O-Week would have to start in late August, which would be an unnecessary hassle for not only first years but also for O-Week volunteers.
It would also mean huge logistical problems for the city. Traffic in Waterloo on Labour Day weekend would be terrible here, thanks to a combination of vacationers and most of the senior students at Laurier and the University of Waterloo returning.
Shortening O-Week could actually be a good thing. It would allow the university to focus its resources over a smaller period of time and provide better quality activities during orientation. This could keep more first years interested in orientation, which after the first few days is difficult.
I know when I went through O-Week most people on my floor chose to play dead after the first few days of early morning wakeups, rather than risk a day of uber-happy volunteers and lacklustre activities. Besides, as new students of Laurier they are going to have to get used to cuts.
All students could actually benefit academically and mentally from having a reading week halfway through the fall term.
Let’s face it, school is stressful and this presents a perfect opportunity to remove some of that stress and relax. What is important is that the school provides students with a choice.
If a student wants to spend the week getting drunk then they have that right, but others will choose to spend the time to study.
It all comes down to creating an atmosphere of personal responsibility and giving students who want to do well some time to catch up or get ahead on readings.
With papers due and midterms to tackle, it is very easy for students to experience tunnel vision during midterm season. For students at Laurier a fall reading week will present an opportunity not only to catch up on readings, but also to think over how they have approached the school year so far and in what areas they need to improve. A reading week is the only way to ensure that students can do this in the fall term and it will reward those that take their education seriously in the long-term. Let’s not let the fear of a few drunks keep students from achieving academic and personal success.
A fall reading week is supposed to be a much-needed break to a large portion of the student body. Also, in theory, having a fall reading week would allow for some students to spend a week at home with family or friends. Seeing grandma and grandpa is just so awesome that so many of us are fighting for that extra week a year to do so, right?
This all sounds impractical to me, as someone who can’t afford a trip home and didn’t have much of a Christmas to begin with thanks to our exam schedule this year. I’ve got low expectations of the university to give us more time off, since having a week and a half for Christmas holidays seemed to be hard enough to ask for. The reality is a fall reading week is going to really mess with the already time-crunched fall semester. The university would have to cut these days from O-Week and/or make the exam period longer by extending it either until Dec. 24 or have classes starting Sept. 7 – or both.
Cutting O-Week would be a terrible mistake. As a school that is valued for its dedication to first year students and making them feel a part of the Laurier family, I would feel ashamed for taking away from that experience just so I could have more time to work on assignments or so others can drink and travel.
The simple fact is that most students don’t want a fall reading week to actually do reading, prepare for midterms or write essays. They want to take full advantage of the week to travel south, drink, sleep or play video games. I can’t blame them, but I think it is time that can be used more productively and is certainly not good enough reason to tamper with O-Week or the exam schedule.
One point frequently brought up by those in favour of a fall reading week is the claim that it would reduce the suicide rates and amount of reported instances of anxiety and mental health issues amongst the student body. I’ll tell you right now, that the students with these issues deserve to have their concerns attended to, but I am unconvinced that having a reading week would have a substantial impact.
Nonetheless, student stress is a serious concern and it is one of the primary reasons why schools have been moving to allow for fall reading weeks. I don’t believe this is incompatible with simply ensuring that we get a Christmas break of proper length which, more so than reading week, is a time students tend to spend at home with family and friends.
The fall semester can be tough. Adjusting from the summer high is hard and managing your time is difficult. But it is all part of the university experience and by fourth year you get the hang of it and you learn to know when to ask for help.
A reading week for the purposes of academic survival is simply not pragmatic in the fall term. If Laurier were to somehow fit it in somewhere, without greatly inconveniencing the student body, then it would probably be a sweet deal. My faith in this, is however very limited. A fall reading week? How about an extra week of holidays or another week of “study period” during exams—both options the university could consider before critically injuring the fall semester.
– Marcie Foster