Arts & Science Faculty Board rejects 2021-22 academic calendar

Students and faculty raise concerns over the fall mid-term break

ASUS opposed approval of the 2021-22 academic calendar year.
Journal File Photo

At a Nov. 8 Arts and Science Faculty Board meeting, a motion to approve the 2021-22 academic calendar year was rejected.

The calendar didn’t pass due to concerns over the structure of the current fall midterm break, which gives students two days off at the end of October. This year’s fall break was on Oct. 24 and 25.

According to a statement emailed to The Journal by Matthew Mellon, ASUS academics commissioner, stakeholders in the Queen’s community have expressed negative opinions about the fall midterm break to ASUS, including Department Student Council presidents.

“We also took some concerns from the survey published by ASUS during the last winter semester,” Mellon said.

Issues raised in the feedback collected by ASUS include the timing and length of the break. The break’s proximity to Thanksgiving makes it difficult for many students to travel home for a second time, according to Mellon.

“As well, many students do not feel that two days are sufficient and feel that adding the break onto Thanksgiving weekend would be more beneficial,” he said.

Mellon told The Journal upon reviewing the Nov. 8 Board agenda prior to the meeting, he noticed the Board would be voting on sessional dates for 2021-22. The two-day break, in its current iteration, was supposed to be a three-year trial, making 2020-21 the third year of the trial period.

According to Mellon, this means the break structure should be under review for the 2021-22 school year.

Under the calendar submitted for approval to the Arts and Science Faculty Board on Nov. 8, however, the fall midterm break would be entering a fourth, unplanned year. According to Mellon, there was no mention of review, despite the end of the trial period in the 2020-21 year.

“In the Faculty Board meeting, many of these comments were raised by ASUS President Chayce Perkins and myself,” Mellon said.

After discussion, the proposed calendar was put to a vote, and the motion to pass the sessional dates failed.

At a Feb. 26 Senate meeting earlier this year, Senator Diane Beauchemin brought up concerns about the fall midterm break. In response, she was told faculties and schools would be conducting initial assessments of the break, with a collective assessment conducted in 2020.

“A formal process for reviewing the fall term break has not yet been established. A recommendation on how the assessment of the Fall Term Break will occur, and who will conduct it, will be brought forward to Senate in the coming months,” Tom Harris, interim provost and vice-principal (Academic), said in response to Senator Beauchemin.

Student Senate Caucus Chair David Niddam-Dent, in collaboration with AMS President Auston Pierce, plans to bring the topic of the break back to Senate on Nov. 26.

“We are looking for some clarification regarding this response,” Niddam-Dent wrote in a statement to The Journal.

He said he intends to ask about both the faculty assessments and the “formal process” mentioned by the University at the Feb. 26 Senate.

Niddam-Dent said he’ll ask who the data from the faculty assessments will be collected from, if any data has been collected from the past two years of the break trial period, and when these assessments will be completed.

He also plans to ask whether the structure of this process has been decided on, how the faculty assessments will be consolidated, and whether students and faculty will be consulted throughout the formal review.

“Will the timeline for this process ensure that a decision can be implemented in time for the 2021-22 academic year?” Niddam-Dent asked.

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