Senate exploring options for fall reading break extension

Campus News
UVic students might have a lot more time for this stuff over fall reading break if the UVic Senate pulls through. Stock image via
UVic students might have a lot more time for this stuff over fall reading break if the UVic Senate pulls through. Stock image via

If you wish the three-day reprieve from classes in the middle of November was a little bit longer, you may be in luck: consultations are underway to determine the fea- sibility of scheduling final exams on Sundays, which would allow for the break to be extended two full days.

In a memo to the UVic Senate on Nov. 4, the Senate Committee on Agenda and Governance said that it could not make any recommendations on the proposed extension “within current operational and academic parameters.” Annalee Lepp, Department of Gender Studies chair and member of the committee, told the senate that they were now seeking input as to whether or not further investigations should be pursued.

“It’s not a trivial question,” Lepp said. “There would be a fair bit of work involved.”

The proposal to extend fall reading break is nothing new, having originally come forward at a senate meeting on Oct. 23, 2015. The UVSS-Grad Student Society joint proposal was advocated on the basis of students’ mental health and with the view to provide a full week off from classes.

The sub-committee in charge of the proposal met extensively from November 2015 to April 2016, at which point it was instructed to continue investigating and report back in the fall.

With a certain level of contact hours that are mandated for the university, two days of classes can’t just be dropped without adjustments elsewhere. Options considered for extending the break included starting the school year earlier, which isn’t possible given how summer courses

are currently scheduled, and extending exams until Dec. 23, which the committee determined would be too much of a hardship on some students.

Adding Sunday exams to the examination schedule comes with its own caveats, of course: some students may ask for exemptions on religious grounds; some administrative offices would need to be open outside regular operating hours; and faculty members and invigilators would be required to work Sundays, which is not currently expected of them. Other labour considerations would need to be investigated as well, according to the committee.

A few senators at the Nov. 4 meeting asked if the committee had considered moving the fall reading break closer to the Thanksgiving long weekend. But it was pointed out that the break currently lines up with fall convocation, which has its own significant space and staff requirements that wouldn’t be available if students were still in classes. There were also concerns raised in previous consultations that stressed out first-year students, should they go home for a full week at Thanksgiving, may not return.

But, on the flip-side, other senators pointed out that it’s difficult for some faculty to get work done during the two days prior to the fall reading break, as many students opt to take the entire week off regardless. Student senator Paige Bennett suggested the committee survey students and faculty to see what they want; other senators suggested speaking with UVic Counseling Services.

Ultimately, the committee was instructed to move ahead with investigating the possibility of Sunday exams. The senate will be given an update sometime in the new year, likely January or February.