UW still hesitant about fall break

Photo by Thiviya Kanagasabesan

Photo by Thiviya Kanagasabesan

After a referendum earlier this month, students at the University of Waterloo have made it clear they want a fall reading week.

The referendum was held by the Federation of Students and found that 74 per cent of the 6,000 students who voted were in favour of the implementation of a reading week in the fall term.

UW is now beginning to take these results into account and will be holding another vote in the fall of 2015. Following this consultation, if the decision is made based on this consultation to implement a fall reading week, it will be inserted into the fall 2016 term.

“We have had to … make sure the implications of introducing a two- to three-day reading week in the fall could be accommodated,” said Nick Manning, director of media relations and issues management at UW.

According to Manning, the implementation of a reading week could affect various factions of the university, including Orientation Week, class start date, exam schedules, residency staff, housing and more.

The main reason why UW has been hesitant to make the change however, is because of specific existing academic programs and the co-op work placements that may not work to conform to the fall reading week.

“One of the challenges that Waterloo faces, which is really very unique to us, is our co-op education model,” said Manning.

In order to test the impact of the reading week, depending on the results of the consultation, there may be a trial reading week that is implemented for a two- to three-year period.

According to Manning, 14 universities in Ontario have implemented fall reading week, with Wilfrid Laurier University implementing one this past year.

“It is not a straightforward thing we can implement without significant consideration,” said Manning.

If the prospect to implement a reading week is carried forward, it is possible that UW will implement the break in conjunction with the Thanksgiving long weekend. There may be problems here, however, as Thanksgiving falls on different dates every year.

Michael Lipton, a fourth-year biomedical science student at UW, believes fall reading week would be extremely beneficial to students.

“I think it is a smart decision as it will help reduce stress of a lot of students, which will be especially important for students in their first year,” he said.

Manning believes that the implementation of a fall reading week could help reduce stress amongst students as well, specifically first-year students who are in a “pressure cooker environment.”

These efforts could ultimately help to promote mental health efforts and well-being.

“We will go forward with this consultation, but in conjunction with other wellness efforts on campus to make sure students understand how they can maintain their time, how best to capitalize on breaks they get, how best to manage stress in that pressure cooker,” said Manning.

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