By Patrick Szpak
Associate News Editor
Rye students toiling in the fall may soon be looking north with envy as Ottawa’s universities move to adopt a second reading break.
The potential new reading break comes after student referendums in February endorsed more days off.
Students at Carleton University voted 76 per cent in favour of a second break while students at the University of Ottawa were 82 per cent in favour of more days off in the first term.
Carleton students cited a need to reduce stress and dropout rates among first years as important reasons for the vote. Although votes do not guarantee a second break, the administration at Carleton and the University of Ottawa are not against it.
Robert Major, the University of Ottawa’s academic vice-president, told the Ottawa Citizen that “if this is something that the students really want and think is extremely important for the quality of the university experience, we are most certainly willing to consider it.”
Ryerson students hopeful that the first-term break may migrate south shouldn’t count on it.
Ryerson Registrar Keith Alnwick said Ryerson’s Academic Council seriously considered a second reading break in March of 2004, but rejected changing the one break system if it meant reducing the 13 weeks of study in the first semester.
Alnwick said the 13-week semester is important for both delivering value to students and accreditation purposes. Ryerson could only maintain the 13 weeks of study as well as a second break if they started school before the first Tuesday after September’s Labour Day, he added.
“I really don’t see students having much appetite for that.” Three hundred first-year students chose to drop out in the first semester last year, with 100 dropping out in the second, according to the registrar’s statistics.
Alnwick said another reading break would likely only help those students with large backlogs of work, rather than those who found the work too challenging to begin with.
Melissa Matton, health promotions nurse at Ryerson, said she would be in favour of a fall reading break for Ryerson students. She said the breaks can provide the time off students need to reduce stress levels and illnesses.
“Some use it to do things they enjoy or catch up on work and get less stress,” Matton said. Ryerson student leaders have only recently begun looking at lobbying the university for a second reading break.
Muhammad Ali Jabbar, president of Ryseron’s Student Union, is receptive to changing university policy. “It would help students prepare for exams,” he said.
Only two universities in Ontario have a fall reading break — Trent University and Laurentian University.