The academic year has barely started, but the vacation plans are already in full swing.
This year will be the first in which Western University has a Fall Reading Week. Western's Senate passed the motion last year, outlining a new break — we get the week off from Oct. 7 to 15.
Many students are happy about extra vacation time — who could say no to a few days off? This time could be used to study, prepare for assignments or midterms and generally relax from the breakneck pace of university life. Alternatively, you could sit on your ass doing nothing all week and then scramble in a panic on Sunday to get everything done.
However, this is an odd time to have a vacation. It feels like the year has just started, and we’re already getting an extended break — are people really that overloaded with work already? For others, it will also increase their academic workload later on. Western's teaching period hasn't been extended, and profs will try to cram together assessments with less time.
On top of this, not all profs seem to be on board. Already, some students report having assignments due in the middle of the week off. If you’re on vacation without internet access, looks like you’re out of luck.
Then again, this is a Reading Week, not a “go to the Bahamas and suntan” week. It’s framed as a wellness initiative, to reduce the workload on stressed-out students.
As a wellness initiative, though, this is a fairly simplistic response to students' complicated and varied mental health stressors. Western desperately needs more concrete changes, like reducing the wait times for psychological services across campus. While more vacation time might work in the short-term for stress relief, the underlying causes remain the same: students will soon get used to the break in future years, and the stress will creep back.
On the other hand, Fall Reading Week is a popular response to Western's wellness crisis, and despite its flaws, it's a step in the right direction. A few days of recuperation will do a lot to address the hectic everyday schedule of your average student. In addition, it means administration took into account a suggestion from student representatives and made it a reality: a move to be encouraged, not overanalyzed.
With time, we might see the wrinkles ironed out. If Fall Reading Break moves beyond its pilot years and becomes a permanent change, teachers and students alike will adjust their schedules to it.
So kick back, relax, and enjoy the break. Who knows — maybe you'll even get some studying done.