Cracking the code of a fall reading week

A Fall Reading Week at Queen’s could be the light in the middle of the tunnel, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of the light at the end.   

Queen’s Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) created a Fall Reading Week proposal that suggests starting the school year a week earlier, adding extra instructional days, and eliminating two days from the break between classes and the exam period to accommodate a break. In the end, SCAP and the University’s Senate will be the ones to approve the proposal. 

Many Canadians universities are embracing the Fall Reading Week, recognizing that students are especially vulnerable to mental illness. 

Implementing a Fall Reading Week, while a small measure, has the potential to prevent the stress that leads to mental health issues.

Many students already take every opportunity to travel home. Some even skip classes to lengthen their time with family. 

Having an official break from classes would allow students who live farther away, or who don’t have the finances for travel costs, to justify travelling home — minus the added strain of making up for missed classes. 

However, since student wellness is the reason behind a Fall Reading Week, it only stands to reason that students should be a part of the process.

In November, the AMS hosted two town hall meetings to garner student feedback on the SCAP proposal. However, the small portion of students who went to these meetings don’t represent the concerns of the whole.

To get a better sense of student needs, the University could present potential proposals to students, survey them for their opinions and conduct a student vote. Ultimately, the decision should come from the student body, and not the University Senate. 

The importance of student input is essential, because the last thing we want is a break that creates more problems than it solves. 

Parts of SCAP’s proposal seems to stem from a misunderstanding of how students operate — for example, taking away crucial time for studying at the most stressful time of term. Two precious days to study for exams can mean the difference between a pass and a fail. Trading in strategic days for the sake of alleviating stress would, ironically, only add stress by making it harder to budget time for exams. 

A potential solution — instead of cutting short the exam study period — would be to scale back Orientation Week by a day or two. This would still allow for the tradition to continue, but could add a couple of desperately needed study days in the right places. 

When weighed against improving your classmates’ mental health, it doesn’t seem too high a cost. 

— Journal Editorial Board

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