Photo: Michael Kim

Fall break up for debate

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By Matthew Kwong

Students might be granted a fall-term reading week if Academic Council can be sold on the idea. A university committee has been reviewing several options for the proposed holiday.

John Cook, the chair of Ryerson’s English department, first proposed a second study break at last December’s Academic Council. Cook is concerned that students working to meet deadlines aren’t given adequate time to think critically about course material in the first semester.

“When you’re in class all the time you’re just doing,” he said. “I’d like to see more opportunity within the academic year to step back a little and think about what you’re doing.”

A discussion paper obtained by the Eyeopener outlines three possible options for a fall break, one of which will be taken to the Academic Council meeting in December.

Option one is to introduce a study break between the end of classes and the start of exams. Option two is to create a study break in October by adding Friday and Tuesday to the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Option three is a “special purpose week,” which would give each department a week to use at its own discretion.

But the time crunch of first semester and the school’s emphasis on practical learning will make it difficult to implement a fall reading week.

“What has to be acknowledged at the outset is just how tight the fall semester is,” said registrar Keith Alnwick, who chairs the committee.

Alnwick said that a full week off isn’t feasible.

“In many of our programs, 13 weeks could mean 13 studios, and there’s a big difference between having 12 studios as opposed to 13,” he said.

Christian Tinney, a fourth-year urban regional planning student, would rather have an extended Thanksgiving holiday in October. “Midterms usually fall about two weeks after Thanksgiving anyway,” he said.

A study break between the end of classes and the start of exams would be a concern for students in non-exam programs, as it would allow less time for projects.

The special purpose week would result in a break for some students. But departments like engineering, which rely on the 13 week curriculum, would likely continue to teach through the break.

The dean of the faculty of engineering, Stalin Boctor, would not comment on the possible study break. He invited the Eyeopener to talk to him in three or four years, when he suspects a decision will be closer to being made. Bocter said last year he thought a fall reading week was a good idea, but wouldn’t agree to cutting short engineering’s 13-week curriculum.

For now, they’re looking to Trent University, which has had a fall reading week for years.

York University’s Glendon College abolished its fall break in a 1997 referedum, according to Glendon professor James Benson.

“It was a great pity because it was a really wonderful institution that did everybody a lot of good,” he said, adding he often saw better work as a result.

Alnwick hopes a decision will be reached at the Academic Council meeting in December.

“Generally speaking there’s been a fair amount of interest in the idea,” he said. “But in the end, it all depends on what the price tag is.”

A reading break could jeopardize the 12-day exam period, which could leave some students writing up to three exams in one day. To combat this, the university may schedule Sunday exams.

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