It is unlikely that a fall reading week will be implemented at the Mississauga and St. George campuses in the foreseeable future, as the university is bound to a commitment to end the academic year by April 30 and each university faculty must set its own sessional dates independently.
According to Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of media relations, the autonomy of each faculty allows for schedule flexibility.
In 2009, the Faculty of Arts & Science, the university’s largest faculty, decided to change the way in which academic breaks were scheduled in an effort to maintain an appropriate term length. That year, university administration dropped fall break from five days to two days, and added a two day break in December.
Blackburn-Evans said that the change was made to improve the student experience, although she did not elaborate on how the change directly benefited students as much as it benefited the scheduling done by faculties.
Other universities have moved towards incorporating a fall reading week in recent years, including Brock University, which implemented a fall reading week following the release of a recommendation from Brock University’s Mental Health Strategy and the Brock University Students’ Union. The recommendation stated that a longer fall break would reduce student stress levels.
University of Toronto Scarborough has a week-long break in the fall term, while UTM and UTSG do not.
Yolen Bollo-Kamara, University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) president, said that implementing a fall reading week on campus is one of many ways that the university could take a proactive approach to its mental health strategy for students.
She added that having a week-long break in the fall term would enable students to evaluate their course selections, seek out additional support to fulfill academic requirements for their program, and better manage workload.
As it stands, there is no indication from university administration that the issue of a fall reading week will be subject to review, although Bollo-Kamara said that the UTSU has brought up the issue with both the provost and vice-provost, who said that any changes should be done on a faculty-by-faculty basis.
Bollo-Kamara said that the UTSU wishes to bring the issue of a fall reading week to the forefront for faculty officials, and is hoping to work with faculty course unions on the issue.
Abdullah Shihipar, Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) president, said that although ASSU is not currently lobbying the Faculty of Arts & Science for a fall reading week, it does not oppose the possibility. “Certainly, at an [academically] demanding school like U of T, a fall reading week would give students a chance to rest and would do wonders for mental health,” he said.
Shihipar added that the two-day November break is a good start, but said that implementing a fall reading week at UTSG would be more difficult. “Such a drastic change, we believe, will not happen at the faculty level unless there are discussions on the issue at higher administrative bodies at the university. Because of this, ASSU is not currently working on the fall reading week with the Faculty but again, we are not opposed to it,” he said.