Students give feedback on potential Fall Reading Week

Arguments for and against a newly proposed reading week

Tyler Lively addresses the crowd at the Nov. 9 town hall meeting about a Fall Reading Week.
Tyler Lively addresses the crowd at the Nov. 9 town hall meeting about a Fall Reading Week.

Over the past month, the AMS has opened the floor for students to voice their opinions on the possible implementation of a Fall Reading Week.

The AMS hosted two Town Hall meetings in Wallace Hall — on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16 — where students were encouraged to pose questions and give feedback on the logistics of implementing a break.

Proponents of a Fall Reading Week say the break would alleviate stress experienced by students during the school year. Opponents, meanwhile, focus on the logistical problems a Fall Reading Week could create.

Although turnout was low, students raised questions about the feasibility of an additional reading week and discussed whether it would benefit students academically.

The recently appointed AMS academic affairs commissioner, Tyler Lively, ArtSci ’16, told the audience at the Nov. 9 meeting that discussions surrounding a fall reading week began in 2012 as one of the recommendations made by the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health.

Students voted against the option in two AMS referenda — once in 2007 and again in 2011 — but the debate over a fall break has been reignited after various faculties and student-run societies became concerned about student mental health and well-being.

Other Canadian universities, such as Trent University, have implemented Fall Reading Weeks for similar reasons.

However, a report released by the Queen’s Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) observed Fall Reading Weeks at other universities and found no conclusive evidence that a fall reading week helps curb mental health issues.

At the Nov. 9 meeting, Lively said a new reading week would hopefully reduce student stress, especially for first-year students who are often “away from home for the first time”. 

He added that it’s merely a proposal and would have to make its way through the SCAP and the University Senate before it could be implemented.

The fall semester currently has 59 instructional days — where classes start a week after Labour Day — with no fall break and four free study days between the end of classes and the start of exam period. 

Under the new proposal, there would be 61 instructional days and classes would commence immediately after Labour Day on Tuesday. Orientation Week would take place a week before Labour Day, while a new four-day break would be scheduled for the same week as Thanksgiving. This means there would be no classes until Thursday on the week of Thanksgiving.

The four pre-exam study days at the end of the semester would also be reduced to two days.

According to Lively, the AMS and other student societies have been conducting seminars with students to gather feedback on a potential fall reading week.

SCAP will take a recent online petition regarding a fall reading week into consideration. The petition — created by Raasil Khan — has gathered over 2,000 signatures after it was posted in the “Queen’s Class of 2019” Facebook group.

The petition was brought to the attention of Senate at their last meeting on Nov. 3. It will be included in SCAD’s “deliberations regarding sessional dates and the development of a Fall term break”, according to their report to Senate.

In an interview with The Journal, Lively said there are credible arguments both for and against implementing a new reading week. 

Arguments for a fall reading week, he said, revolve around mental health and stress and the possibility for out-of-province students to return home during the fall semester. 

A fall reading week would also give first years a break during an often-stressful semester, he said.

“Supports for first year students, as much as the University tries to offer a lot of them, are not that great, so a lot of first year students say they have difficulty with that transition and wouldn’t mind having a Fall Reading Week,” Lively said.

Arguments against it, meanwhile, focus on logistics. Lively said some students have taken issue with SCAP’s proposal, which includes a recommendation to reduce the amount of pre-exam study days from four days to two days.

“A lot of students have said that [pre-exam] time is a lot more valuable to them and that a break later is more valuable than earlier.”

There have also been concerns about an earlier orientation week, which some students feel may impact their ability to have a summer job or relax after their summer job, he added.

Lively said AMS assembly will discuss a fall reading week next Thursday. The student government hasn’t yet come to a conclusion on the issue.

“We’ve heard a lot of different opinions, and I don’t think we’ve consulted widely enough to really make a decision about that yet,” Lively said.

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