Chris Gerritsen, public relations and communications specialist at SAIT, said on Nov. 22 that the only scheduled reading week will take place in February each year, and there no plans to incorporate a fall reading week into the academic schedule.
“We are required to provide a set number of hours of instruction in order to maintain our ability to grant degrees and diplomas,” said Gerritsen in a written statement.
The required hours of instruction are mandated by the province, the statement noted.
Mount Royal University announced in a news release issued Nov. 21 that it will incorporate a fall break next year, becoming the first Calgary post-secondary institution to adopt the practice.
The decision followed recommendations from the MRU President’s Task Force on Student Mental Health, developed in 2013, and follows the success of the “reading days” pilot project, according to the release.
The first fall reading week at the school will take place from Oct. 10-13, 2017, following Thanksgiving.
SAIT, meanwhile, shuts down for one day, on Nov. 11, each year, and that is it.
The University of Alberta is the only other major post-secondary institution in Alberta that provides students with the additional fall reading week.
MRU’s move follows adoption of a fall break at the University of Lethbridge this year.
The fall reading week is part of the U of L’s strategy to alleviate student stress and mental fatigue.
It began on Monday, Nov. 7, and included Remembrance Day. Students were back in class Nov. 14.
Olivia Gauthier, a second-year student at the U of L, welcomed the addition of a fall reading week.
“It’s really important for students to get a break,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier, a 19-year-old chemistry major, returned to her Calgary home to enjoy the week with family and friends.
“It’s nice to have a break and just relax,” said Gauthier. “However, some professors don’t agree with that.”
Gauthier said that many of her professors assigned major papers or projects to be finished during the week students were away from classes.
“I would be completely caught up if it weren’t for all the projects and assignments due after reading week,” said Gauthier.
Traditionally, these breaks follow the completion of midterm exams, allowing students to catch up on reading and sleep.
However, Gauthier found herself spending the week studying for midterms after reading week.
Gauthier believes that the loss of a week in an already brief fall semester left many of her professors feeling panicked and having to push back exams.
Usually, the fall and winter semesters are 15 weeks long, with classes wrapping up for most post-secondary students by mid-December this fall, and by mid-April for the winter term. So the loss of a week can be substantial.
SAIT students will have to wait until Christmas to enjoy a break.
However, Lela Sanders, a second-year student in SAIT’s film and video production program, doesn’t mind.
I’m okay with not having a reading week. – Lela Sanders
She believes that the project-based format of her program does not warrant a fall reading week.
“I’m okay with not having a reading week,” said Sanders.
“I would probably still come to campus since our project work is done on school computers,” said Sanders, explaining that missing a week of studies would only make it more difficult to meet important deadlines.
The inclusion of a reading week, or “spring break” during the winter semester is commonplace for post-secondary institutions, including at SAIT.