As students return to classes from a week off, they can rest assured that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is working in conjunction with the McGill administration for the implementation of a similar break in the Fall semester.
Following a referendum question in Winter 2018 where 96 per cent of students voted in favour of a Fall Reading Week, SSMU released the SSMU Fall Reading Week Survey in Nov. 2018 to gauge student support for the various options that could create time for a Fall Reading Week. With 4,338 respondents, the most popular option to make up for the classtime lost to a break was to start classes before Labour Day in September. Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga vouched for this option as a way to give students a full week off instead of having to combine reading week with Thanksgiving. This option would also allow additional days to be added to the December exam period, push back deferred Winter exams to mid August, change Frosh and move-in dates for incoming freshmen, and may impact the summer courses’s schedules.
“Starting school a week early in the last week of August would give McGill the flexibility to have a Fall Reading [Week] while allowing the fall exam period to be extended, alleviating a lot of stress that students face during these times,” Buraga wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune.
The administration has raised concerns that such an option might force students to pay an extra month’s rent. However, only nine per cent of survey respondents had leases from September to April, giving some relief to concerns over financial consequences.
A different option currently under consideration is the addition of an extra four or five minutes to each class period. This would amount to an additional 35 minutes per course, which would affect the timing of continuing studies classes and potentially present conflicts for those reliant on daycare services.
Currently, the McGill ad-hoc Fall Reading Week Committee and a sub-committee of the Enrollment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAAC) are working together to weigh the feasibility of each option. Once an option is selected, students will be given a referendum question in March or April to affirm support for the break.
According to Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s interim deputy provost of Student Life and Learning, a Fall Reading Week in 2020 might be possible if ESAAC is able to secure approval from other administrative bodies.
“By the time we hit April, depending on the advancement, ESAAC may be able at their meeting to say ‘we endorse this choice,’ [though] this is all conditional on being able to get a buy-in from the rest of the stakeholders because we’re limiting our study to some extent to the student view and the logistical view,” Labeau said. “But, to me, [planning a Fall Reading Week for 2020 would be] a reasonable time frame.”
Similar debates about the feasibility of a reading week have occurred in the past; however, SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer is confident that, this time, SSMU and the administration are working together to ensure that all options are thoroughly considered.
“I’m in my fourth year at McGill, and I’ve seen these discussions take place in my first year, and, originally, I think people had these ideas that they brought, but there was never any sort of formal committee made at McGill,” Mansdoerfer said. “There’s different leadership that is listening to students, and, if at the end of the day it turns out that it can’t work out, I’m appreciative because at least they were giving an honest shot […] at it. And that’s kind of the difference right now, is that there’s a genuine desire to explore it and to see what kind of happens from there that necessarily wasn’t there one, two, or three years ago.”