After three years of consultation, Queen’s may have a fall reading week for the 2017-18 school year.
The Senate Committee on Academic Procedure (SCAP) will be proposing a motion to create a fall term break at the April Senate meeting.
Discussion about a fall term break began in 2012 after the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health released a report recommending a fall term break to better support first-year students making the transition to university.
More and more universities in Ontario — such as Carleton and U of T — have implemented a fall term break, while Queen’s has continued to provide only a winter term break for students. This past fall, a Change.org petition for a Queen’s fall break circulated across campus, gathering around 2,500 signatures and the attention of the Queen’s Senate.
Jordan Morelli, the chair of SCAP, told The Journal in a recent interview that SCAP was ready to make a recommendation to Senate on a fall term break around this time last year. They decided to hold off and give the AMS time to gather student feedback, however.
At the beginning of the winter semester, the AMS conducted a feedback survey to gauge student opinion on the fall term break proposal. Survey results presented in January showed a discrepancy between opinions based on the respondents’ faculties. While 85 per cent of engineering student respondents were opposed to the proposed fall reading week, 63 per cent of arts and science students surveyed voted in favour.
The Engineering Society (EngSoc) has since passed an internal resolution to oppose a fall term break that would compromise Orientation Week or number of pre-exam days between the end of classes and start of exams in December.
Based on feedback gathered from the AMS and other groups on campus, SCAP has a final reading week proposal headed to the Senate.
SCAP proposes that Move-In Day take place on the Saturday immediately before Labour Day, with classes beginning on the Wednesday after Labour Day.
In the proposal, Orientation Week days wouldn’t occur on consecutive days. Though SCAP has made recommendations on when Orientation could take place, Morelli said the days would ultimately be decided by the faculty societies.
“It’s not in SCAP’s hands and SCAP’s not trying to direct any of that. We’ve gone out of our way to point that they still have lots of flexibility to make the decisions they’ve always made. The decisions will still be in their hands.”
The number of pre-exam days depends on where Labour Day falls in September. The years of 2017 and 2018 are “spacious” due the positioning of Labour Day, and Morelli said they’re the best years for the school to experiment with a fall term break.
“Most years, we will have four pre-exam study days. There’s a few years where that’s a challenge. Now, if we revisit our policy concerning Commemoration Day, we can ease that, but not entirely.”
The proposal, if passed, will be the framework by the SCAP when approving sessional dates, starting in the 2017/18 academic year.
Morelli stressed that the framework is “permissive, not prescriptive” in the sense that the faculties can choose whether to apply for dates conforming to the proposed framework.
Traditionally, the faculties of Arts and Science, Engineering and Applied Science, Commerce and Nursing have applied for the same sessional dates because they have overlapping courses. However, that isn’t mandatory.
The consultation period has been lengthy, and Morelli say he’s optimistic that the proposal has received enough feedback to be beneficial to students.
“At the end of the day, we want to do what’s best for students. That’s what this is all about. We’re trying to come up with a way to improve mental health outcome for students.”
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