Associate News Editor
Starting in the 2014–15 school year, most University of Saskatchewan students will be getting a fall term reading week.
The break will be based around the Remembrance Day long weekend and will cover Nov. 10–14 in 2014. To accommodate the schedule change, student orientation and the final exam period will each be one day shorter.
All colleges except medicine, dentistry, nursing and veterinary medicine will include the break in their schedules. U of S Students’ Union President Max FineDay said it is disappointing to see that he was unable to convince all colleges that having a fall term reading week is good for students.
“I had a lot of pushback from those academic deans. I had one dean tell me, ‘It’s a choice between students going skiing for a week or students learning to deal with heart attacks,’” FineDay said. “Hopefully, once they see the benefits in all the other colleges, they’ll understand there are significant challenges with the med students’ schedules.”
FineDay said he feels the academic deans of the health sciences colleges are not aware of how much stress their students are under through the semester.
“I’ve had conversations with these students about this and they say, ‘Yeah, I’m stressed out. I’m in one of the busiest colleges and I need a break and my college isn’t recognizing that and that’s disappointing,’” FineDay said.
The College of Nursing was interested in giving their students a break in the fall but FineDay said it was unable to reorganize their schedule in time. Lois Berry, acting dean of the College of Nursing, said she was supportive of the idea.
“We’ve delayed implementation until 2015 simply so we can organize our clinical placements for students and we have to make sure we can still meet all of our required hours for these placements,” Berry said.
Adding a fall reading week was one of FineDay’s main campaign promises during the USSU elections in March 2013.
“Students asked for this,” FineDay said. “This was one of my most well received campaign platforms. It’s great to see that I could come through on this.”
FineDay added that he sees having a fall semester reading week as something that is imperative to students’ mental health. According to a report published by the Canadian Organization of University College Health in June 2013 almost 90 per cent of students surveyed said they felt overwhelmed at some point during the school year and nearly 10 per cent said they had serious suicidal thoughts.
“I think it’ll be helpful in terms of retaining students and improving their marks and giving them personal time. If that means reading or working, that’s great. But if they want to go skiing or go on a holiday, that’s up to them to decide what the needs for their mental health are,” FineDay said.
FineDay brought the prospect of a fall term reading week to the university administration soon after taking office in May 2013. Through meetings with the university registrar, U of S President Ilene Busch-Vishniac and the academic deans of various colleges, FineDay was eventually able to convince university administration of the merit of having a fall term reading week.
In 2011, the U of S began giving students a “reading day” around the November long weekend. Russell Isinger, U of S registrar and director of student services, said having a week-long break in both semesters makes sense.
“Students are concerned about the workload they have and we agreed,” Isinger said.
Fall term reading weeks have begun to be implemented at universities across Canada. Trent University has had a fall break since 1964. Brock, Western, McMaster and Carleton universities all added a fall term reading week in 2013. FineDay has worked closely with colleagues at the University of Alberta over the past year and said that they have also shown interest in adding a fall reading week.