There seems to be some confusion over what the Sessional Dates Framework proposal does and does not propose. I am writing to try and clear up questions you might have.
Senate is only being asked to endorse a Sessional Dates Framework and a set of principles that it represents. Senate is not being asked to specify the precise implementation of the Sessional Dates; there already exists appropriate practices to do this and they should continue to be relied upon. To put it simply, Senate is being asked to decide if Queen’s University should adopt a fall term break, allow some overlap of academic classes with Orientation Week activities, and attempt to spread out the academic work of the fall term; it is not being asked how this should be accomplished. While the Sessional Dates Framework proposal does suggest specifics about how these goals might be accomplished this is done only for the purpose of demonstrating that it is possible to do so.
The Principal’s Commission on Mental Health (PCMH) made a number of recommendations. The Session Dates Framework proposal seeks to implement one of them: Recommendation 1.5; it states that “Queen’s programs are academically intense with insufficient “breathing space,” especially for first-year students in the fall, as they adapt to university life.” It goes on to suggest that Queen’s adjust its sessional dates to “allow some front-end overlap with orientation activities …” and that this “would help smooth out the workload across a term, decompress the intensity of the first term and its exam schedule and provide the opportunity for a fall break without the burden of upcoming midterms.”
In an effort to better support the health and wellbeing of Queen’s students, and consistent with Recommendation 1.5, the Sessional Dates Framework seeks to enshrine the following four principles:
i. A fall term break is desirable for student wellbeing and should be implemented;
ii. Orientation activities are valuable for assisting first-year students make the transition to university life and should be preserved;
iii. A pre-exam study period is beneficial to students and should be preserved; and
iv. The number of instructional days should be increased as far as practical in order to help smooth out workload across the term.
There seems to be considerable confusion about how endorsing the Sessional Dates Framework would impact Orientation activities so I would like to offer the following comments. According to the Orientation Week Policy Manual, “Orientation Week currently starts on the first day of Residence move-in and concludes the following Saturday.” (page 3) Thus, the Sessional Dates Framework proposal as presented in Senate would quite possibly increase the length of Orientation Week by as much as two days as current practice has Residence move-in day occurring on a Sunday whereas the Sessional Dates Framework proposal suggests Residence move-in could occur on a Saturday, and also end on the following Sunday.
Of course, that is not to say that all Orientation Week activities would be able to continue exactly as they currently do, but rather they would need to be adapted in order to accommodate the overlap of Orientation Week activities with academic classes as called for in Recommendation 1.5 of the report of the PCMH. I am confident that the various groups that currently develop and plan Orientation Week activities will continue to be able to do so in a manner that best supports the objectives of Orientation Week as enumerated on page 5 of the Orientation Week Policy Manual.
In addition to being entirely consistent with the Senate-approved Orientation Week Policy Manual, the Sessional Dates Framework proposal also is entirely consistent with the Senate Policy on Pre-Exam Study Period.
Jordan E. Morelli,
Chair Senate Committee on Academic Procedures
Associate Professor, Department of Engineering Physics and Astronomy
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