Who wants a fall reading week?

Need a break? Instead of grabbing a Kit-Kat, consider a fall reading week. Durham College has.

Currently, 11 out of 20 of Ontario’s publicly funded universities have opted for a fall break for students. And maybe for good reason. (a transition line is needed here)

A student mental health report by Queen’s University in Kingston found a fall break would give the students more breathing space, especially for first year students.

Durham College president Don Lovisa sees the value in the break.

“The fall semester is always so rushed,” he says. “You hit the midstream and you think, ‘Boy I’m way behind, I need a week to get myself prepared’.”

Lovisa says there are many positive aspects to giving students a fall reading week, but he adds the school’s operations would need to be adjusted.

“You have to ask the question, if we shorten the semester by another week, how does that affect the curriculum?” Lovisa said. “And how does that affect the time you would need to learn?”

One of the options that has been debated is to start school a week earlier, before Labour Day weekend. In a recent poll on the DC campus, 16 out of 25 students said they were willing to give up the last week of summer to have a fall reading week. Seven of the students that disagreed said they would rather push exams back a week in December to have the break in the fall.

Judy Robinson, vice-president of academics, is surprised.

“I can’t get students that said they’d do that,” she said.

That said, Robinson is on board for a fall reading week, but has been struggling to find official approval from faculty and students.

“If we could fit it in, it would give the students a sense of control,” she said. “I think a fall reading week, for sure, helps reduce stress on students, but if you look at the literature, you won’t find the retention. In fact, you’ll find the opposite.”

One of the issues Robinson has with a fall reading week would be a lack of expected academic progression during the time off. She said students would use a reading week to take a break instead of catching up on assignments.

“Unless you’re a really serious student, reading week isn’t used as time to finish projects. It tends to be part of the breathing space that probably is needed, but it’s not really a success strategy in the real sense.”

An option she and the Academic Council have considered is adding an extra day or two to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend instead of the potential fall reading week.

A fall break is something that still needs some smoothing out. Lovisa says although there are no plans for a fall reading week now, there is “lots of discussion.”