YOOHYUN PARK/MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR

Viewing reading week strictly as a break or as solely a time for revision can be harmful for students' wellbeing

For Canadian university students, reading week is likely the most anticipated week of the semester. It is standard for most universities to give their students a week off classes and other academic engagements. For the well-being of their students, many universities promote this break as a time to recharge, catch up on missed work or even get ahead in classes.  

This messaging helps to increase the appeal of this weeklong recess. However, some students have a different take on reading week. Come reading week, students may be so burnt out from the first half of the semester, from assignment after assignment, midterm after midterm, they view reading week as a complete break. They use this time to fully relax and refreshen. As I have done this every reading week I have experienced, I would also argue there are many downsides to this approach.  

For some people, this approach can contribute to a sense of overwhelming guilt for not working and simply taking time to relax instead. This kind of guilt is often driven by anxiety, particularly what is known as "time anxiety.” Tim anxiety refers to the feeling of unease created by time passing and believing that it is too late to accomplish certain things.  

Time does not halt while we may take a step back from our studies during the week. In fact, it goes by faster if anything. So it's important to be mindful of the extent to your relaxation as readings will continue to pile up and you will once again fall back into the perpetual cycle of burnout. 

Time does not halt while we may take a step back from our studies during the week. In fact, it goes by faster if anything. So be mindful of the extent to your relaxation as readings will continue to pile up and you will once again fall back into the perpetual cycle of burnout. 

Additionally, for several students, the majority of their midterms fall after the break. With no classes to attend, they may choose to cram for the back-to-back midterms that wait for them the next week. However, this leaves little room to truly recharge and can lead to students feeling even more stressed than they might during their normal schedule.  

As humans, it can be hard for us to find a balance at times. In the short run, we find it much easier to commit to one or another extreme, but this can result in long-term dissatisfaction and, in this case in particular, further burnout. Students must force themselves to find a balance during this period as that is the only way they might genuinely be able to take the opportunity for relaxation that reading week is offers, all while remaining successful in our studies.  

Students must force themselves to find a balance during this period as that is the only way they might genuinely be able to take the opportunity for relaxation that reading week is offers, all while remaining successful in our studies.  

To start developing balance, students could set up a short to do list for yourself every day and resist the urge to pile on more tasks than you can handle. I find that at times I overestimate how much I can get done on a day free of classes. But in reality, I easily get distracted from the tasks at hand and long to do something more relaxing, especially since I have a free day.  

Reading week can set students up for the gruelling two months that follow it, but it is also capable for setting students up for success for the rest of the semester. If we just try to find a school-relaxation balance during the break, we would be able to not only enjoy the break itself, but achieve much more throughout the remaining part of the semester.  

Staying in Hamilton over Fall reading week? The Silhouette has your back with a whole list of events to keep you busy and away from doing school work. 

 

Monday, 9 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/824276797751460/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Ping Pong and Trivia are a great way to liven up your Monday night.

https://www.facebook.com/events/831478037027572/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Whether it be All Star by Smash Mouth or Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, everyone has a karaoke song! Belt your hearts out at Avlyn's Lounge this Monday.

 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/361040504337771/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Interested in capturing the beautiful human body through drawing? Come to the Cotton Factory at 7 p.m. to get hands on experience. The event is $10.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/144482469499576/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Learn to yield the powers and effects of natural essential oils! They can help south headaches, injuries and stress. The cost is $4 to join, which covers the cost of the materials to make your own blend.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/354430398329701/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

You get to meet an adorable mini pig, and learn more about how your meat diet affects animals. You earn $5 if you sit down and watch a seven minute VR documentary of a pigs life, from birth to slaughter.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1882658278618188/

Trivia nights can help keep your brain in thinking mode throughout reading week. For $5 at Lou Dawg's, you can participate to keep your mind sharp and maybe win some prizes.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/121071081891508/

Already an improv pro and want to master your skills? Staircase Improv is offering a weekly drop-in class run by AD Andrew Hopps. Haven't tried improv yet? You can watch as an audience member for free!

 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/356709921445747/

Missing your tiny dog because you're not going home for reading week? Well the Extra Small Dog Social is an event you probably will enjoy. A bunch of small dogs all hanging out, what's not to like? You can go schmooze with these floofs all evening for $25 bones.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1130817327049414/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Another trivia night? Hell ya! The Honest Lawyer's 90's Trivia Night will definitely put you in the mood for Halloween, focusing on cult classics such as the Addams Family, Hocus Pocus, Casper and Halloween Town. It's $5 per table and you get bonus points if you show up in costumes.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1743936279244322/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22[%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22page%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22page_upcoming_events_card%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A[]%7D]%22%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D

The Factory Media Centre is continuing its current exhibit by hosting a Lunch and Learn with an interactive, behind-the-art workshop. Guests can learn the techniques and processes behind the work.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/177781306117416/

Has school gotten in the way of you getting your craft on? Now's the time to make up lost time with a Halloween themed DIY. There's four different options to choose from: Fall/ Halloween welcome sign, Scarecrow, Fall/Halloween directional sign, and a Teal pumpkin project sign.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/124626931511646/

Owning a bike is easy, but upkeep and maintenance are often forgot about, until you end up with a flat tire. For $25, this workshop will teach you how to do a safety check, repair and change a tire, adjust brakes and gears, check bearing systems, and other basic maintenance.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1822637284422368/

Hamilton sure does love it's beer and yoga events. Join Barb for in brewery yoga to stretch and drink your worries away.

 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/122838721754316/

For the more fashionable Marauder, there's a fashion show and action happening at Michaelangelo Events and Conference Centre. There's no info as to what styles will be shown, but all the proceeds go to the Dr Bob Kemp Hospice.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/264739650711895/

Not into small dogs? Maybe medium puppers is more your size. Bring your dog or go sans pet to the Medium Dog Social at My Dog's Cafe on Locke St. S.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/617103042012500/

Casino Art Space hosts a monthly poetry night called Moon Milk. October's guest is Chelsea Tadeyeske, who is a poet whose work is rooted in exploring shame, trauma and desire. The event is free for all and is an open mic, so you can test your poetry skills as well.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/118467325530623/?ref=br_rs

Redchurch Cafe hosts a monthly pay-what-you-can swing dance! Go eat, enjoy the gallery space and learn an old school dance. Redchurch also hosts different styles of dances throughout the month, so be sure to watch out for other styles.

https://www.facebook.com/events/118211255527071/

The ultimate Throwback Thursday event, the Art of Tea and Tasseomancy and Mystic Tearoom is hosting a Practical Magic screening. There will be a short discussion about the movie before hand, popcorn and alcohol free margaritas!

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/132172830754859/

Comedians Joe Botelho, Ally Dick, Drew Hayes, A Hassan Chaudry, Tyler Dombroski, Derek Kurisco, Dan Brennan, Kevin Spencer, and Michael Moses take the stage at the Spice Factory. If you need a laugh (and a distraction from the impending school week) be sure to check out this event at the Spice Factory.

https://www.facebook.com/events/751277955064256/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Calling all musicians and performers! Come perform in front of a full audience at the Rust City Brewery. If you're not one for sharing your skills, you can always sit back and support local talent.

 

Friday, 13 October 2017

It's that time of the month again. Even though Supercrawl is the big festival of the year, there's still plenty of artists to support and vendors to check out. While James St. N will still be busy, you'll get a much less hectic evening of art.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1754729071488040/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Perfect for a date night, or a solo trip, Hammer Night Live will have you laughing by the end (or start) of you Friday evening. It's free so even if the comedians aren't funny, there's nothing to lose.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/256914624778352/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Time to put on your yellow and black because it's football night in Hamilton. Take to the stadium to support the Hamilton Tiger-Cats against the Calgary Stampede.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/864691380375894/

Looking to attend an event that will make you think and have tacos's? The Tower is hosting a fundraiser to help raise money for SubMedia, an anarchist and anti-capitalist video production company.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1912153915702874/

Have a story you feel needs to be heard? Story Slam is the art of competitive storytelling done in a slam poetry style. This month's theme is Friday the 13th, and focuses on ghostly encounters, creepy crawlies and nights gone terribly wrong. Listen as an audience member or tell a devilish story of your own.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1953794118229446/

There's nothing like a good, wholesome corn maze and bonfire to help welcome in the cold weather. For $12 cash, you can get a bus ride and entrance to the corn maze.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/142783662993750/

Running throughout Art Crawl, HAVN will be showcasing portraits from artist Ariel Bader-Shamai, as well as launch a new quarterly zine, Solecism. Solecism focuses on the blunders of using film to shoot, and how that can be interpreted as artistic.

 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/1449306875189075/?acontext=%7B%22source%22%3A5%2C%22page_id_source%22%3A1475860179383908%2C%22action_history%22%3A[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22page%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22main_list%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A%22%7B%5C%22page_id%5C%22%3A1475860179383908%2C%5C%22tour_id%5C%22%3Anull%7D%22%7D]%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D

If you're an early riser and a Hamilton foodie, Mes Amis Catering is opening a Creperie & Apera Bar at the Hamilton's Farmers Market. Their new menu includes 100% gluten free crepes, smoothies, arepas, soups, salads, and sweet treats.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1189553797854749/

The Understudies promise a night of  terror and laughter as they take spooky Halloween suggestions for their improv show.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/301583650317762/?ref=br_rs&acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Are you more of a wine person than a beer person? Toast Bar has you covered with a mindless meditation involving wine! While tickets are $45, snacks, wine tasting and good company is included in your afternoon.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/444984245879031/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

The up and coming indie rock band, Current Swell is taking to the Casbah stage on Saturday Night and is set to give Hamilton an unforgettable show. Their latest album, When To Talk And When To Listen, was produced by Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Cold War Kids, Of Monsters and Men) and is told to play for include rich songwriting and vibrant musicianship.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/473082876406156/

Hamilton has a haunted past and Haunted Hamilton is here to take you on a tour of all the spooky and scary things this city has to offer. The Oct. 20th tour is already sold out, so make sure to book your tickets early to experience haunted Hamilton.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/events/122679748440957/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Every weekend, the Black Sheep Snack Bar hosts a delicious brunch! Checkout their website for a sample of their hearty menu.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/679540868903720/

If you'd like to dance away the calories you consumed during reading week, then SalsaSoul Sunday could be a fun evening for you. $10 at the Spice Factory gets you a salsa lesson and the option to be in the salsa social.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1422787681173942/

Yes, another drinking and exercising event. Enjoy an intimate yoga class lead by Trisha from Namaste Local,  and after, a glass of  Canada's national cocktail, a Caesar. Tickets are $20.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1411821102198249/

End reading week with a (head) bang by checking out the rock shows at Doors: Taco Joint & Metal Bar on Sunday night. Bands Flesh Rag, Rik and the Pigs, Radiation Risks will be taking the stage starting at 9 PM sharp.

 

All Week

https://www.facebook.com/events/879314002226541/?ref=br_rs&acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

If the other spooky events on this list weren't enough for you, then Bizarro's Factory of Fear should fill your dark heart throughout the week. The attraction is on until the end of the month, but you should make use of your reading week to get spooked, because by the time exams come around you'll already be screaming.

 

 

Jacob Brodka
SRA Science

This is the third time I have ordered from the shop & I would recommend them to anyone. Canadian pharmacy viagra? Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage.

For the first time this year, McMaster students can look forward to a three-day Fall Recess that will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.  During the recess, there will be no scheduled undergraduate lectures or tests.

The length of first term (62 sessional days) remains the same, as the term is extended to be slightly longer before the winter exam break in order to not impact program accreditation.

This three-day recess period was approved last February by the University Senate on a two-year trial basis following a recommendation from the Undergraduate Council.

Lobbying, discussion and surveying of student opinions by the MSU in conjunction with growing interest and implementation of breaks at other institutions in Ontario at McMaster sparked the push for the break here. Western, Carleton and Brock will be joining McMaster in having some form of fall sessional break for the first time this year.

Once this break (and the two-year trial) has come and gone next year – what is next for this scheduled period of relief?  At this point in time, no strategy has been put in place to solicit student feedback on the recess. This leads to a genuine question about what information will be taken into account when this recess period is up for review following the break next year.

The decision to keep the break or modify it in any way for the 2015-16 school year would have to be made shortly after the Fall 2014 recess period as the Undergraduate Calendar follows structured approval dates.

At that point in time, it would be fantastic to have some form of formal feedback to take into consideration.

I am interested in having the break last well beyond this two year pilot period as I see intrinsic value in having an opportunity - albeit small - to catch up on school work and focus on personal wellness. I will be using the break to read, catch up on some sleep and spend time with friends and family.

If you have any comments or feedback to share about the Fall Recess, I encourage you to to comment or get in contact with any of your SRA representatives.

In the Silhouette’s Oct. 18 issue, a news story and an editorial doubted that a fall break for 2013 would be possible.

The MSU had not yet launched its survey for gathering input on the break, and time was running out for the idea to pass through the University’s multi-tiered approval process. We argued that students union president Siobhan Stewart needed to forget surveys and quickly push forward if she hoped to get the job done. And even then, it was a long shot.

This week, we were proved wrong.

The MSU launched a survey, got a significant amount of feedback and took the information to University administrators. Undergraduate Council allowed the setting of next year’s academic calendar to be pushed to early 2013.

On Wednesday, Senate voted. There will be no classes on Thursday, Oct. 31 and Friday, Nov. 1, and there will be no tests on Saturday, Nov. 2. And the break will run again in 2014. With the exam period in December shifted forward two days and shrunk by one, no faculties will drop below their required number of teaching days.

It’s not a week. But it’s a break, just as was promised, and it was born out of a lot hard work. It’s a start, and it will help people.

Nice work, Siobhan. And to everyone else, have a happy Halloween.

Undergraduate students will be getting a three-day break next year from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. The fall break will run from a Thursday to a Saturday, allowing two weekdays off and a test ban on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The University Senate unanimously passed the motion for a break Wednesday afternoon.

Due to restrictions on the number of instructional days for certain faculties, the number of class days (62) will remain the same. The exam period has been pushed forward two days and shortened by one day, and will run Dec. 6 to 20.

MSU president Siobhan Stewart was tearful as she addressed the room before the vote. A fall break was part of her platform when she ran for president early in 2012.

“It has been my dream for over a year to have this passed,” said Stewart.

“Several times when I’ve talked to students, [I’ve found] they think things can’t change at the University, but this is an opportunity to show that it can.”

The pilot will run two academic years in a row beginning in 2013. After the trial, the University will decide whether or not to make the break permanent.

By implementing a break in the fall term, McMaster follows practices of other universities in Ontario, including U of T and Queen’s. Other universities, like Ryerson, Trent and the University of Ottawa, have fall reading weeks.

The University of Windsor had a trial reading week in 2009 and decided not to reinstate it the following year.

MSU President Siobhan Stewart talks about fall break at a focus group discussion on Nov. 13.

The MSU has released a survey to get feedback from undergraduates on a possible fall break at McMaster.

As of Nov. 14, more than 2,625 responses had been received since the survey opened on Nov. 4. The purpose of the survey is to gauge the student appetite for a break and help determine the most effective length and type of break.

At a focus group discussion on Nov. 13, Stewart said the timing of the survey was in part to allow first-year students a few months to adjust to university life.

“They can comment as students who have had at least one midterm,” said Stewart.

Stewart said she was aware of the accreditation needs of various faculties such as Engineering, Social Work, Nursing and Commerce. Students in some faculties are required to complete more credit hours than those in other faculties.

“I know there are accreditation standards, but I think it’s possible for faculties to find a creative way around it,” she said.

Stewart said there has been discussion on the University administration's side about possible pilot projects, including talk of a pilot for first-year students only, though no concrete plans have been made.

“I’m confident we can do something in the interim, if that’s what students want,” she said. “If students indicate they want a larger project, the University needs time to put the resources together."

An online chat about fall break will be hosted on the MSU's website on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 3:30pm. The survey will be available online until Nov. 18.

Exploring how a “class-free week” and community-based learning could enhance McMaster’s overall student experience

Campus is often viewed as a community of its own. But Forward with Integrity (FWI) urged the campus to look outside McMaster to understand what constitutes our commitment to community.

Campus has been abuzz with various initiatives that seek to enhance our internal, local and global engagement. The Community Engagement (CE) Task Force Report noted the need for reciprocity in community partnership, fostering bilateral and mutually beneficial relationships between McMaster and community agencies.

Specific initiatives mentioned in the report include establishing a community opportunities infoshare database, a network of community champions and a possible CE course.

 

Student experience in the community through flexible learning

The Student Experience Task Force (discussed in last week’s FWI feature article) also proposed a “class-free week” which would feature community-based learning experiences.

The “class-free week” concept comes on the cusp of recent student interest and concern over the attempt by the MSU to secure a Fall Reading Week for students in 2013.

While the Fall Reading Week was part of Siobhan Stewart’s electoral platform, the Class-Free Week was proposed independently by the CE Task Force as a method to more flexibly approach student learning and ensure opportunities for community-based learning.

Susan Denburg, VP Academic (Health Sciences) and Strategic Advisor to the President, noted that this week would eliminate classes but provide supplementary opportunities for student learning, through seminars, service-learning and other activities.

“We want to increase opportunity for students to expand their horizons, we want the environment to be flexible, people learn in different ways and at different rates. So we want to create that flexibility so students can get to where they want to go, in different ways.”

Denburg mentioned that the goal is to eventually guarantee 100 per cent student participation. She noted that the faculties have been receptive to the idea of a class-free week with supplementary and possibly accredited activities outside of the classroom.

“We want to have this week, want you to step back, think about how could you use a week? What do you want to experience in that week and how would it enhance your learning…and what skills might it enhance?” said Denburg.

 

Where McMaster Stands

McMaster has been increasingly more involved in the community, with events such as MacServe, providing opportunities for thousands of students and staff. However, long-term exposure and involvement in the community has not been an institutional priority at McMaster.

Mary Koziol, Assistant to the President, Special Community Initiatives, explained that community engagement is a slow-moving and long-term process, because of the need to both protect the University’s brand and to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.

“Making sure that community engagement is mutually beneficial is at the forefront of the decision-making process. Especially when we ask community partners and consult with them before simply creating things,” she said.

Generally, McMaster has strong elements of short-term service learning and industry partnerships but has lagged behind other universities in community-directed research and community-based education. Most students have limited awareness of Hamilton’s realities.

Huzaifa Saaed, MSU VP Education remarked upon this trend. He stated, “ I don’t feel that…we’ve made a strong commitment to the City of Hamilton, as our city and that’s what we need to go towards. It’s more of a culture shift.”

The CE task force has looked to examples of American schools to model a strong long-term, community-university partnership from.

At the University of Minnesota, the Public Engagement department tracks all the various initiatives and tries to quantify and evaluate the levels of engagement.

McMaster is part of the Canadian Association for Service Learning (Ontario Branch), which has allowed McMaster to exchange ideas with other universities about their best case practices.

McMaster does not stand-alone in its commitment to the community. In the latest Strategic Mandate Agreements submitted to the provincial government, University of Guelph and Queen’s both pledged to incorporate community engagement into their institutional priorities.

While McMaster is still in the brainstorming process, Guelph has pledged to create a certificate in Civic Engagement and establish a School of Civil Society. Queen’s is in the process of developing a Co-Curricular Opportunities Directory to capitalize on student involvement in community and experiential learning opportunities

Other universities such as York and UBC have reallocated resources and received significant funding to create community engagement centres and departments.

 

What comes first?

A major priority for the CE task force has been finding a channel to share and discuss the various community initiatives. McMaster hosted an “Idea Exchange” day where faculties were invited to share how they were engaging with the community.

The current focus is to familiarize all units of the university with all the ongoing projects. The Task Force report proposed creating an infoshare or database of community opportunities to organize the information for both faculty and students.

The report also proposed both a network of community champions and a community engagement course. However, both of these are fairly intertwined initiatives and on some level may vary faculty to faculty.

The network of community champions could be part of a larger community engagement office. Alternatively, these could be designated individuals within faculties.

A community engagement course would seek to immerse students across the University in community learning and meeting community members. Koziol noted that the University is currently contemplating, “what are the big initiatives which would allow a cascade of ideas.”

Koziol reiterated that it was equally important to ensure meaningful engagement and a certain commitment to the community.

“The crux of community engagement is that you are trying to both create and strengthen a network which can be difficult to measure.”

(Infographic updated to account for new information)

This time next year, McMaster students could be off on their first-ever fall break, but so far, there have been few signs this will happen in 2013.

With sessional dates to be presented to the Undergraduate Council in December, MSU President Siobhan Stewart has limited time to determine whether her proposed fall break will get the nod from the student body. She will then need to convince University administrators to make a change to next year’s calendar.

Stewart won the MSU presidential campaign in April with ‘fall break 2013’ as a major platform point.

The promised break could manifest itself in several ways, from an extra day off before Thanksgiving weekend to a full reading week.

At this point, Stewart says she’s not sure what she could accomplish in time for 2013.

“I can’t say whether or not a full reading week could happen next year. Something can happen. What that something is, I don’t know yet,” said Stewart, who said she would not identify concrete goals before finding out feasible options and polling students.

“My role is to get student feedback and try to get all the factors. In terms of getting that into the calendar, all I can really do is present [what students want]. I don’t have approval power, but my hope is that with substantial student voice behind me, that will add more weight to whatever it is they’re hoping for,” said Stewart.

As of yet, the MSU has not held a public student forum on fall break. Stewart said a survey of student opinion will be released in early November.

The survey will ask students for feedback on what is possible for fall break next year and whether or not they want to move toward a larger-scale initiative like a fall reading week.

Given the tight timeline for administrative approval, a full week off during fall 2013 is unlikely.

Stewart's electoral platform discussed introducing a fall break at Mac

Last week, Ryerson University joined several other universities in the GTA by having its inaugural fall reading week, giving students time off from classes between Oct. 8 and Oct. 12.

It was no easy feat, and Melissa Palermo, Vice President (Education) of the Ryerson Students’ Union can attest.

“We started work on getting a fall reading week in the 2010/2011 year,” said Palermo.

“We first wanted to get students’ opinions on whether or not it was something they wanted, and we got a mandate at our semi-annual general meeting in 2010. We did research on what happened at other campuses and wrote a proposal to the University Senate, and that proposal was passed in January of 2011. The whole process took about a year and a half.”

Phil Wood, Associate Vice President (Student Affairs) at McMaster said there are a number of administrative kinks to work out before a fall break of any kind could happen.

“There are several difficulties that must be worked through on our end. These include things like length of a term and exam schedules, which will need to be dealt with before we could consider even a pilot project,” said Wood.

As is the case for Ryerson, some professional programs at McMaster may not be able to reduce the number of weeks in the semester from 13 to 12.

In particular, engineering students need to spend a higher number of hours in class in order for their program to be accredited.

“Whether or not they would be able to take time off would depend on the steps we are able to take to replace these hours. This would not be a simple task,” said Maria White, Assistant Dean of Engineering.

At Ryerson, the faculty of engineering and architectural science was permitted to re-evaluate whether they wanted a reading week due to their accreditation requirements. Ultimately, the faculty decided not to participate.

“Their options were to find more class time or work through the reading week,” said Palermo.

The fall reading week debate has grown in popularity among Ontario universities over the past few years, with mental health concerns and student stress at the core of the discussion.

Debra Earl, McMaster’s Mental Health Team Nurse, wrote a proposal for fall break for submission to Student Affairs in 2009, to which she says she has received no response.

The report compares McMaster to peer institutions in Ontario and the U.S. and finds McMaster more stringent than other institutions in its scheduling accommodations for students.

The study shows the number of teaching days at McMaster was one of the highest in the province in 2009, with only two non-teaching days in the semester.

McMaster’s exam period (14 days) was also longer than nine other Ontario universities’ in 2009. McMaster had only one ‘study day’ before the start of exams.

“There might be a benefit to having exams spread out more, but what some schools do is have a condensed exam schedule and a longer study period beforehand,” said Earl.

At the time of Earl’s study, Laurentian, Trent, Nipissing and York had week-long breaks during the fall semester. Since then, the University of Ottawa and Ryerson University have jumped on board.

The University of Toronto offers a two-day mid-semester break in November, and Queen’s has a three-day study break in December.

At the moment, it is uncertain whether a fall break would be favourable to the majority of McMaster students, and in what capacity they would want it implemented. It also remains to be seen whether there is enough time to make it happen for the next academic year.

The Undergraduate Council will vote on next year’s sessional dates on Dec. 11. The schedule for 2013-2014 must be finalized before the printing of McMaster’s undergraduate calendar in March.

 

Unless a quick and concerted push by our Students Union is in the works, we’re not getting a fall break in 2013. The time for gathering a wide sample of student input, in which we’ll weigh the many pros and cons for each of the faculties, is gone. It’s probably just too late.

I don’t mean to sound entitled, but a commitment to creating a fall break was a big part of our MSU president’s platform when she ran last winter. It was made very clear. If elected, Siobhan Stewart would work with University Administration to create a break lasting anywhere from a day to a week around Thanksgiving for 2013.

She got elected, and she started her job as the Students Union’s CEO in May. But before proceeding in her discussions with the University, she wanted to be sure she had the mandate from students to ask for the fall break, and wanted to be clear on what that mandate was. Not a bad idea.

Getting direction from a student body like ours, though, is hard. As big as the issue might be – and don’t get me wrong; a fall break is a big issue – no call for feedback will give you a representation of our students’ interests in which you’re totally confident. Our campus of more than 20,000 full-time undergrads is just not engaged enough. If it’s consensus you’re looking for, you’re never going to be satisfied.

But, symbolic as they might be, there are ways to strengthen a mandate before you approach University administrators. It’s the job of the SRA, for example, to define direction for the MSU. A vote from those 35 members represents a vote from students. (Never mind the low voter turnout SRA elections receive.) A simple poll on the MSU website, even, could have been launched during Welcome Week.

Mind you, the mandate was strong to begin with. Voter turnout at the MSU’s 2012 presidential elections was at about a third of eligible voters. As McMaster student elections go, that’s huge. And as difficult as it is to know just how a person wins an election, you’ve got to assume that their platform has something to do with it.

Kudos to Stewart for including a fall break in her platform last winter at all, and for looking into the various options of how a break would look. I believe that Stewart’s pending search for student input comes from a genuine desire to know what students really want.

But at some point – sooner rather than later – we need to move forward.

At least in my humble opinion, a fall break, be it a day or a week, is a good idea. It’s got ramifications for student mental health and, almost as importantly, an undeniable “cool” factor.

But regardless of what I believe, we need to pick our position and go with it. We don’t need to flatter ourselves by believing that the University will pass what we students (or our representatives) say we want without running it past the inevitable criticisms throughout the University.

And you can’t balance a teeter-totter by sitting in the middle.

But like I said, I’m not optimistic. I’m worried that we’re started onto a series of discussions and online surveys as our student leaders cycle through year to year. I’m worried that we’ll never get enough steam behind this idea to make it happen.

But I’d love for the MSU and the University to team up and prove me wrong.


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