University erred in siding against fall reading week

When all was said and done with the proposal to have two days of classes added in the traditional Wilfrid Laurier University orientation week (O-Week) in order to create a fall reading break, the students’ voices were heard — unfortunately it was just the voices of a particularly obnoxious few.

“Short-sighted” can be used to describe this group as well, given that the idea for a fall reading break emanated from students’ concerns about mental health and would enable them to catch up with reading and assignments, specifically for first-year students ill-equipped in many cases for the university-level workload. Particular attention should also be paid to the university’s abject willingness to fold under the pressure of an outspoken minority.

With the proposal for a fall reading week dying on the table at the Senate and Board meeting last week, Laurier remains one of only a handful of universities in the province that schedules an entire week of orientation without any classes.

While this allows for what is often called the “best orientation in Canada,” to continue in its week-long, responsibility-free glory, it robs every student of a break to supplement the Thanksgiving weekend and make the two semesters comparable. This would have given students the choice to either drink away those extra days, or, if they count themselves among those at this university for education’s sake, study. The argument pitched by many in the inane social media squabbling that surrounded this decision has that rescheduling would simply give an opportunity for students to party and waste time which was completely misguided.

A fall reading break would function just as the winter reading week. Every time anyone at a university frankly discusses students’ stress levels and the incidence of suicide or severe mental distress, reading breaks are considered a mitigating factor, and that is why many schools have instituted them for the fall semester. Because Laurier has not been free from these issues, the proposal should never have been a surprise but viewed as a preventative act.

So, Laurier students, it appears that a group of former Ice Breakers and others involved with O-Week have decided for you that interrupting in any way a week that includes such essentials as a trip to a water park and the intellectually-stimulating talent show and cheer-off was unacceptable at this university that prides itself on a top-notch orientation experience.

Unfortunately, as commendable as orientation for students is for meeting people and getting settled, it has clearly, in this case, eclipsed in importance the need for consideration of students’ mental and academic well-being beyond the first week of their time here. The sort of big picture thinking university education is purported to develop was completely absent in this process.

—The Cord Editorial Board

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