UVic to consider extending winter break after student petition

Campus News

Over 1 500 people have signed a petition requesting a longer winter break

winter break, snow frosted trees
Trees sprinkled with snow in front of Clearihue Building. Stock photo.

As exam season approaches, many UVic students feel that they need a longer break over the winter holidays. Over 1 500 people have signed a petition asking UVic to postpone the start of the spring semester until at least Jan. 11 — noting that the online semester and COVID-19 negatively impacted their mental health. 

UVic will consider delaying the start of the spring semester during the Dec. 4 Senate meeting. 

Concordia University, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo have already decided to push the break to Jan. 11. The Ubyssey reported that UBC’s president, Santa Ono, is supportive of delaying the start of the semester. At UBC and UVic, no official decision has been made. 

UVic political science student Jasmine Pathak created the petition. She said she has seen her peers struggling this semester. Pathak believes the extended break would help students and professors alike, as they will have more time to ready themselves for the coming semester. 

“Everyone I know has had a hard time this semester,” Pathak said. “The university has been cognizant of the struggles … [but] they haven’t been able to accommodate student mental health concerns as much.”

The petition was created on Change.org, and therefore it is unclear whether all signatories are part of the university community. The survey was also circulated on popular social media pages, like UVic memes. 

Sarina de Havelyn, UVSS director of outreach and university relations, said students and professors seem to like this idea. De Havelyn said she met with members of the university administration today and discussed it. 

“Students need a break,” De Havelyn said. “Students have never had this much stress before from their academic experience … and the workload has increased so unevenly that some students are feeling incredibly burnt out and stressed.”

“This definitely needs to happen,” she added.

Implementing a longer winter break would be complex. Making the winter break longer would affect the contracts the university has with staff and influence professors’ syllabi. 

Ultimately, the university must maintain the same amount of academic days in the semester. They are not expected to shorten reading break and may not be able to extend classes into the April exam break. Although de Havelyn is supportive of the move, she says there are a lot of logistical hurdles.

Third-year linguistics student Kimmy Macdonell also signed the petition. She echoed some of Pathak’s concerns around mental health, adding that she has found online courses hard to handle. 

“It’s difficult to let myself take breaks and relax because it feels like I’m constantly at work in my own home,” Macdonell said. “I have spoken to many peers who have been feeling exceptionally burnt out as well, and I think UVic students could really benefit from a slightly extended winter break.”