After Senate debate, fall term break to be attached to Thanksgiving

Senate committee to begin review process immediately

AMS President Auston Pierce at Senate on Jan. 28.
Photo: 
The controversy over the fall term break has come to a conclusion.
 
At Tuesday’s Senate meeting, a motion, originally brought to Senate by the Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP), was passed unanimously—with two important amendments based on an AMS student survey.
 
Senate was under a time crunch, as prolonging setting sessional dates for the 2021-22 year would have brought the University up against provincial codes, which in turn would have put Queen’s students’ OSAP eligibility in jeopardy.
 
The first amendment added the current two-day break to the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2021-22. The second requires the University to start a review process of the break immediately, rather than next year, as was originally proposed.
 
Student Senate Caucus Chair David Niddam-Dent rose to criticize the SCAP motion. 
 
“If the recommendations of [the AMS survey on the fall term break] were followed, this motion would be quite different,” he said. “The fourth year of the break, 
 
2021-22 would have a two-day break attached to Thanksgiving, and that would be listening to the voices of those students who responded to the survey.”
 
Niddam-Dent raised concerns about the proposal to push review of the break into the 2020-21 school year, which would mean two of the graduating years who had experienced both the break as is, and no break, would no longer be at Queen’s. “These students have the best ability to comment on the break, and their voices will not be heard,” Niddam-Dent said.
 
Another issue raised was SCAP’s role in the review process. “Given that student feedback wasn’t considered by SCAP, given that students who sit on SCAP do not have the same platform for student consultation as someone like Auston [Pierce, AMS president] does, we believe SCAP is not the right body to carry out this review,” Niddam-Dent said. 
 
Senator Jordan Morelli raised concerns that moving the break earlier in the semester may make it too early. He also said he believes the review should be left to SCAP.
 
AMS President Auston Pierce responded by explaining that, in his consultations since taking office in May, students have expressed a strong preference for the Thanksgiving extension, which would bring Queen’s in line with many other post-secondary institutions across the province. 
 
“A lot of students feel as though there are financial accessibility issues, there’s travel and distance, that all come in as factors as why they can’t go home and take those mental rest days with their family and friends,” Pierce said.
 
Senator Diane Beauchemin agreed with Pierce and Niddam-Dent. “The break is for the students, so the students should decide how they have it.”
 
The motion was amended to attach the two-day break to Thanksgiving and passed. It was then further amended to require the University to start its review this year. That amendment passed as well.
 
Pierce and Niddam-Dent spoke to The Journal in an interview after Senate.
 
“The University hadn’t done any review or survey or created any plan to evaluate the impacts of the fall term break,” Pierce said. “[SCAP] has to work alongside the AMS, the SGPS, other student senators and students, so that we can be asking the right questions,” he said. “It’s also really important they carve enough time out for themselves to conduct this.”
 
Niddam-Dent agreed it’s important that SCAP commits appropriate time to the review. “SCAP only meets once a month, usually for an hour and half or two hours. That’s not going to be enough to do the review they’ve been tasked with by Senate,” he said. 
 
Pierce and Niddam-Dent also spoke of frustrations students had with what they felt was the University’s lack of consultation on the fall term break.
 
“Students were listened to in the end,” Pierce said. “What happened at Senate was a lot of us rallying together, alongside a lot of faculty senators, to make sure that student voices were heard. That’s the value of student leadership at all levels of our institution.”
 
Niddam-Dent sees the passing of the twice-amended motion as a cause for optimism about the University’s willingness to listen to student’s desires. 
 
“When we’re together, and we bring the University that data, that faculty senators and the administration are willing to listen to us,” he said. “It’s really important for us to be optimistic about what we can achieve when we’re united.”
 

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