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University of Calgary to push for fall reading week by 2018

By Scott Strasser, February 3 2017 —

It won’t happen next year, but University of Calgary students could potentially enjoy a full week off in the 2018 fall semester.

The U of C is once again reviewing the possibility of implementing a full reading week in the fall semester. The potential break would likely extend the Remembrance Day weekend by a few days.

According to U of C registrar Angelique Saweczko, the Office of the Provost is leading the review and will report to a working group. Saweczko said it’s still too early to confirm when the fall reading week will be established.

“Although a date has been put out there of 2018–19 as a potential timeframe, that’s very exploratory and there’s a lot that needs to happen for this to be realized,” she said.

Currently, the longest break at the U of C during the fall semester is the Remembrance Day weekend. The break lasts four or five days, depending on which day of the week Nov. 11 falls on.

The U of C has failed to implement a fall reading week in the past. The university must have 62–65 instructional days each semester, which means the summer break, block week or the final exam period would have to be shortened to accommodate a fall reading week.


SU vice-president Alicia Lunz thinks a fall semester reading week would benefit students’ mental health // Photo by Scott Strasser

Students’ Union vice-president academic Alicia Lunz will sit on the working group tasked with studying and implementing a potential fall break. She said a week off in the fall would be good for students’ mental health.

“[The SU is] definitely of the opinion that having that break — especially in November when stress is high — [gives] students the opportunity to catch up on things or have a few days to numb their brains and relax,” Lunz said. “We think those extra days would be beneficial for students’ mental health, as long as professors aren’t piling on more work before that week.”

The SU conducted a survey in Winter 2014 that asked students what they would be willing to give up for a fall reading break. While 60 per cent of respondents said they would like a full week off in the fall, there was no consensus on how to make it possible.

Lunz said the SU included a question about a fall break in their current survey.

“We have a question in the survey that’s structured differently than what we had in 2014,” she said. “Instead of [asking], ‘what are you willing to give up?’ it’s like, ‘would a midterm break benefit your mental health’?”

Saweczko said a unique challenge the U of C faces in implementing a fall reading week is how to incorporate the university’s block week.

“Our block week automatically pushes the start of our fall term a week later than most institutions,” she said. “That’s our biggest challenge when looking at what changes we can make — how we can balance maintaining the benefit of block week that a number of programs use when trying to incorporate this [fall reading break].”

Canadian universities that currently have a full week off in the fall semester include Mount Royal University, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta and McMaster University.

Saweczko said the U of C conducted an “environmental scan” to see what other institutions did to make their fall reading week a reality.

“We focused on the U15 [top 15 research-intensive universities in Canada] because that’s who we measure ourselves against and we have a similar academic schedule and structure,” she said. “A lot of different approaches have been taken at how other institutions have accommodated this.”

The University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria are also currently considering a fall semester reading week.





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