Fall Reading Week?
Author: Aidan Coward
Many Ontario universities have a fall reading break after midterms as part of their fall academic calendar. These schools include McMaster, the University of Toronto, and Western. According to Metro News, the University of Waterloo has examined it as an option in 2011. However the university and Feds declined to implement it.
For first years, the change from high school is significant. The often-reduced class time and increased autonomy is a big difference from secondary school. More information is covered in less time, and there are less opportunities to gauge academic progress. If one falls behind, there are no professional development/activity days to spend catching up.
Upper years are in a similarly difficult position, as the workload increases with the time spent in school.The long-term stress associated with university and the pressure for academic achievement causes a myriad of physical and psychological issues, such as insomnia, anxiety and depression. This stress can also exacerbate both physical and mental illnesses, as well as increasing the risk of disease in the future. All of these issues can have significant detrimental effects on student mental and physical health, and decrease the likelihood of academic success.
It may be argued that adding extra days off will remove class time or increase the exam crunch, however this can be remedied by removing some days from orientation week, or moving the week back. Both possibilities are in use by multiple universities. Students that don’t use the time to study would probably not be studying either way, and the break from academic pressure is beneficial in all cases. The university would have to enforce that midterms and major assignments occur before the break so that it is effective. Professors and TAs would profit, since they would have more time to grade exams. A fall break after midterms would have many benefits to the school population, namely reducing stress and giving students some deserved time off after the hectic exam schedule.
This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 3 of The Chevron on 5 November 2013.