The majority of campus will soon be taking part in Ryerson’s first Fall reading week. Sumaiya Ahmed analyses whether the break is worth the condensed semester and if it will be a vacation to remember or drunkenly forget
The autumn leaves are falling and the air is getting crisper. The bare arms and legs have all but disappeared from view, blocked by cozy sweaters and jeans. September is on its way out, and Ryerson students have been back in class for almost a month.
Already there are visions of a better time, a time without classes, floating through their heads.
Tropical beaches filled with rowdy twenty-somethings getting smashed in their revealing swimwear.
Going home and enjoying the meals being cooked without any effort by you and the laundry being done without using up your quarters. Even getting assignments done without the constant distractions of campus.
Ryerson’s inaugural fall reading week is just around the corner and it can’t get here fast enough.
The week of October 8 to 12 has been designated as the reading week in the Fall semester. Ryerson Senate decided on the dates for the first Fall reading week in March of this year, choosing to add it as an extension to the Thanksgiving long weekend. This means Ryerson students are only gaining four days off attached to their previous holiday.
According to Maclean’s On Campus, several Canadian universities have implemented fall breaks in recent years, such as the University of Ottawa, Trent University and the University of Toronto.
Some institutions, like the University of Calgary, have had a fall break for years Yet not all students are benefitting from the three year campaign required to gain the break. The faculty of engineering, architecture and science (FEAS) opted-out of the week off, citing issues with keeping their professional accreditation if their class times were cut.
This semester, while the rest of the faculties and departments enjoy their time off, the students in FEAS will be busy attending regularly scheduled classes.
Seema Bassi, a third-year civil engineering student, is having a hard time deciding if the opt-out was the best decision.
“I wanted the time off but I do realize that there is a lot to do and not enough time for it,” says Bassi. “I feel that a week off in the fall semester should not be any different then a week off in the winter semester.”
“I wish we could [have a break] as well but I agree with the decision that our workload would just increase significantly if we were to go about it,” says Rohan Mehta, a second-year architecture student.
“I probably will just be attending classes and studying as usual [as] there is not anything major that I want or could do in an empty university.” Sandra Bucchan, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student, hopes to find peace and quiet on an otherwise busy campus, especially with less people in busy spots like the Ryerson Athletic Centre (RAC) and the Library.
Second-year mechanical engineering student William Bradley guesses that the biggest change will be a shorter line at the Tim Hortons that week.
The rest of the faculties appear quite pleased with the new time off. “[I’ve] been wanting it for some time, since there used to be only one in the spring,” says Samantha Bogdanovich, a thirdyear radio and television arts (RTA) student. “I would certainly like to go away for that week.”
The Ryerson University Library & Archives will remain open throughout the week, only closing on Thanksgiving Monday, allowing students to use them for studying purposes on their week off.
Like Bogdanovich, many students are more interested in going away for the week than using the time to catch up on schoolwork.
Representatives at Ryerson Travel CUTS are overwhelmed with the increasing number of bookings. Their booking schedule has increased significantly since the semester started and more students have become aware of this new break.
“There were always an enquiry about going away for Thanksgiving weekend but this time around students are taking advantage of the full week off,” says Sally Coles, branch manager at Travel CUTS.
Though there has been an increase from the usual Fall semester plans, Coles says it does not compare to the demand for bookings over the Winter reading week.
She speculates that the timing of the break, being so early in the school year and not leaving much time for students to save money to travel, could be the cause of this.
“A lot of people are going away for an extended weekend to New York and Niagara Falls but there are some going to grab some sun [as well],” Coles says. “This is the first year, so I am sure it will pick up in the following years.
Though taking off for some relaxation is a popular option, other students feel the pressure to work harder in a shorter semester.
Though the week off is a week to catch up on work, the 13-week semester has been reduced to 12 weeks, forcing professors and classes to condense the same curriculum into a shorter amount of time.
“The Fall semester is always overwhelming, this break will provide the students with an opportunity to catch up,” says Andrew Fernedes, fourth-year English student.
Sonia Verma, a third-year psychology student, seems to dislike the idea of shorter semester. “I feel the pressure already,” says Verma.
“Despite the break, I don’t think I like the idea of being cramped for time.” Philosophy instructor Paul Bali is less worried. “The instructors may not have enough time to cover all the material on time but a week is not much,” says Bali.
“This is a nice change and would reflect well on students academic behaviour.” The discussion for such a break has been in talks since November 2009, when the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) announced they would move a motion at their semi-annual general meeting (SAGM) lobbying the Senate to consider a reading week in the fall of 2010. Ryerson registrar Keith Alnwick and president Sheldon Levy told the Eyeopener that they found the outcome unpractical and unlikely at the time.
2010 brought forth no reading week, but the possibility of an extension onto Thanksgiving weekend, which seemed more likely to get Senate approval than an entirely new week off. The delay in results was due to plenty of back and forth between various parties over if and when the break would be a good idea.
Later that year, Levy once again spoke about the subject to the Eyeopener, with a completely different opinion on the matter. He said the reading week would happen, but would take more time to sort out.
He attributed the delay to finding the perfect balance between the needs of the students for a break and the needs of the university to keep their accreditation for certain programs, such as engineering.
In early 2011, the possibility was at last officially being considered by the Senate, but was once again causing controversy.
Students in FEAS were split over whether they should participate in the break or opt-out.
A town hall was held by the RSU to discuss the options, with concerns centering around increased class time, less preparation time before the exam period and the possibility of having to stay at school over the break in order to attend a single class.
Liana Salvador, RSU vice-president education that term, was pushing the motion as part of her campaign platform and was attempting to make it work for all faculties.
The Senate vote was set for the end of January and ended in a successful outcome for the addition of a fall reading week, though dates had not yet been set.
It wasn’t until more than a year later that the dates were announced and the Eyeopener reported on the decision by the FEAS to exclude themselves from the break.
Now, three years after the initial idea, the plan has finally been set in motion. Due to FEAS’ decision to remain open, the university finds itself preparing to be partially open as well.
“It is a little complicated to have some students attending classes while most of them are on vacations,” says Malu Maia, the graduate program administrator in the philosophy department.
“It seems a little redundant when explaining this to new firstyears, who are a little confused about the whole thing.” Maia says she would rather have the whole university off school at the same time to avoid the confusion.
Cameron O’Conner, a geography alumnus from 2011, wants to believe that despite the delay, this was a good decision.
“It was during our years when the motion was brought forward, but we fought for something that the future generation would see the light to,” says O’Conner.
“Not that I regret it, I think it is a good thing that the new students will finally get the time off that they deserve in the Fall semester.”