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Laurier adds fall reading week to 2014, 2015 and 2016 terms
Starting next fall, Laurier students will get a full week off in two semesters. On Jan. 13, the Wilfrid Laurier University Senate approved the addition of a weeklong break to the fall semester — on top of the existing February reading week — as a three-year pilot project starting in the 2014-15 academic year.
The fall reading week will occur over the four days following the Thanksgiving holiday in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The break will apply to all undergraduate and graduate programs unless a program requests an alternate schedule, which would need Senate approval.
“Laurier Senate's decision to pilot a fall reading week indicates a willingness by the university community to rethink our traditional academic schedule in an effort to improve student success,” said Vice-President: Academic and Provost Deborah MacLatchy. “To test the effect of the pilot, we will be putting in place mechanisms to assess whether there are positive impacts on student retention and wellness with the schedule change.”
To accommodate a break during the fall semester, classes will start the Thursday after Labour Day, beginning in September 2014. This means there will be classes during undergraduate Orientation Week and that the Graduate and Professional Studies Symposium will be held over two days instead of three. A compacted orientation-programming schedule, as well as the fall reading week pilot project, has the support of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, the Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association and the Student Affairs department.
“In my view, this will prove to be a decision that will enhance academic achievement, personal wellness and student success,” said Vice-President: Student Affairs David McMurray. “I think many are looking forward to a more balanced and enriching orientation week that will for the first time in Laurier's history include formal class time.”
McMurray believes “an intentionally scheduled study period will complement the right kind of time management skills students need to master to balance academic responsibilities with meaningful extracurricular endeavours.”
In 2014, the break will have no impact on the fall semester exam schedule; however, the university will schedule exams on Sundays in 2015 and 2016 to accommodate Labour Day falling later in the month in those years.
A proposal to create a fall reading week at Laurier was first brought forth in the fall of 2011. The idea was raised again by students in 2013 and a proposal to add a break to the fall semester was approved in principle at the Nov. 26 Senate meeting. The university then considered three options for implementing the new break: two that would have added a two-day break and the weeklong option that was approved Jan. 13.
“This decision signifies a huge step forward in Laurier’s commitment to addressing the mental health and academic challenges facing students today,” said Chris Walker, one of eight students on Senate. “The pressure of academic and social stress significantly inhibits student success. Students are really looking forward to the fall study break to catch up on readings, work on assignments, or simply get some much needed rest and relaxation with family and friends."
Laurier joins a growing list of 11 other Ontario universities with a study break in the both the fall and winter semesters. A Senate sub-committee will evaluate the success of this three-year pilot project to investigate whether or not Laurier will adopt a fall reading week on a long-term basis.