Letter to the Editor: Reading is for the weak

Re: “UTSG should have reading week in October — like everyone else”
Varsity Logo (CMYK - print)

Hello editor of Varsity Publications,

We hope this letter finds you well. Our names are Kyle Brickman and Daniel Aykler and we are members of the editorial staff of The Boundary: U of T’s least consequential, online-only, semi-campus publication.

We are contacting you to respond to a Comment piece that addresses the timing of the fall reading week, and specifically its failure to align with U of T’s satellite campuses and other large Ontario universities.

In the article in question, the author argues that an early October break provides time to study for midterms and other assignments. While this contention is true, it is unrealistic. Reading week is rarely viewed as an opportunity to advance academically. Although getting ahead on one’s coursework is certainly desirable, if you ask the average student what they are most looking forward to during reading week, they will typically respond with plans for an upcoming trip or the intention to reset their sleep cycle.

‘Reading’ week has become somewhat oxymoronic, treated not as an opportunity to catch up on readings but rather as a break to rest one’s body and mind in order to return to school in a healthier state. This reality is unavoidable –– and also desirable. U of T is generally regarded as an academically rigorous school. The university should be praised, not criticized, for instituting a reading week which is more relaxed and free from cumbersome deadlines upon return. To imply that briefly turning one’s focus away from school is detrimental to a student is exactly the mentality which has led to U of T’s current mental health crisis.

The article also states that, by November, “a majority of the term has already passed,” and students do not have the time to turn their marks around. This assertion is completely unfounded. The vast majority of classes weigh their marking heavily on final exams/papers, rather than on midterms/assignments. The idea that, by November 5, it is already too late for a slacking student to redeem themselves academically is entirely preposterous –– but not unexpected coming from a student who is yet to write a final exam in their university career.

The fear of missing out on hang outs with high school friends is a concern common to the entire True Blue community, and it would be disingenuous to claim that we don’t also share this anxiety. An October reading week would indeed allow students to fraternize with old friends, but just because other schools have instituted this policy does not mean it is ideal. U of T already has a spotty record when it comes to mental health. For the decision regarding reading week, university officials actually listened to the counsel of qualified specialists. They should be commended for recognizing the needs of the student body by implementing a unique break, rather than castigated for not allowing their students to binge-drink on Ezra Avenue or slap a horse’s ass on Aberdeen Street. We would like to thank U of T for implementing a fall break which serves the true purpose of its name, and we encourage other students to recognize the importance of this decision in the larger mental health conversation taking place at U of T –– here’s hoping that its strategy sets a precedent for the university’s approach to student care going forward.

All the best,

Daniel Aykler and Kyle Brickman

The Boundary editorial staff

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