Reading days topic revisited

campus - fall reading days - lena
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

Over the past two years at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), discussion has been circulating around the idea of inserting reading days into the fall academic calendar.

Last year, the topic of fall reading days was brought to the table at Senate as it related to discussions around mental health. However, issues arose in deciding where the extra days would be taken from, options including shortening Orientation Week and having exams on Sundays.

It was decided that the merits of fall reading days should be part of a larger examination of the first-year experience, one that is currently being looked at by a task force. However, it appears as though there is the possibility of renewed consideration in the 2014/15 year.

Annie Constantinescu, WLU Students’ Union president and CEO, spoke about her opinion on the matter and the developments that have taken place at the beginning of the school year.

“Knowing that mental health is a growing issue and that this is something that is already established at a lot of the state schools and that positive feedback has come back from that, I think it’s a good initiative that’s tangible,” said Constantinescu. “Students can plan around it and look forward to it and use it in the way that would serve them best for mental health and wellness.”

“I would be happy to see that revisited because, personally, I think that was the wrong decision,” Paul Jessop, dean of science, said, commenting on the decision last year to leave the fall reading days topic.

Both the Students’ Union and Senate are looking into the pros and cons of a reading weeks at other schools before moving forward with the idea. Only five post-secondary schools in Ontario do not have fall reading days, including Laurier and the University of Waterloo.

Queen’s University has conducted a mental health strategy that proposes the idea of a fall reading weeks, which Laurier and other universities have looked into. It has demonstrated mental health benefits.

Second-year Laurier student, Danielle McKay, explained that a fall reading break may benefit students.

“We start a week later than everyone and a long summer is cool, but it’s not even like we can do much with it cause everyone else is already at school. Everyone gets a break during the fall and we don’t,” she said. “That break could severely reduce stress levels relating to midterms and even suicide rates.”
Michael Carroll, the dean of arts, who holds a position on the Senate, agreed that the major argument in a fall reading break is mental health.

“Students need that break to relieve stress.”

According to Janet McLellan, a professor in the faculty of arts, there’s not much to say about the matter since the Senate will be discussing what the outcome will be.

“At this point we need clarification on the outcome,” McLellan said. “Once figured out, we can plan out the academic syllabus and how it will affect the week.”

“Speaking for myself- and probably my opinion would be the majority of the faculty- is, yes, we would like to see a shortened [orientation] week- which would probably mean the start of classes on Thursday and then additional study days some time,” said Jessop.

Presently, there are few answers from the Students’ Union or Senate regarding fall reading days, but the discussion will continued to be followed as it progresses.

-with files from Marissa Evans

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