Nearly half of Ontario colleges have a fall reading week, so why doesn't Fanshawe?

While Fanshawe College students were busy attending classes and doing assignments on the week of October 19, thousands of students from 10 of Ontario’s 24 public colleges had the week off.

According to Gary Lima, Fanshawe’s vice-president of academic, the school has looked into implementing a fall reading week in the past, but the main issue was keeping a “clean” academic calendar.

“For now, we’re sticking with that, because it just seems to work with the way the calendar falls and allows for students to move in at a start of a month and end at the start of a month,” Lima said. “It just sort of works cleaner with the academic cycle that we have.”

With the current academic calendar, students start the fall term in early September and end in mid-December.

A fall reading week would have students start the fall semester in late August, possibly causing housing issues, said Paul Massé, the Fanshawe Student Union’s business manager. The other possibility would be cutting the Christmas break from three weeks to two, which students – especially those who have to travel to go home for the holidays – may not agree with.

Most programs in the 10 colleges that have a fall reading week operate on 14-week terms. That way, the schools can have both a “clean” academic calendar and a break. The majority of Fanshawe programs operate on 15-week terms, making it harder for the college to implement a reading week in the fall.

Some Ontario post-secondary schools, such as Western University, have a fall study break consisting of a few days instead of a week. Fanshawe has also looked into giving students a short fall break in the past, but that idea didn’t go anywhere, either.

At the time, students said they didn’t want to shorten the Christmas break and that the Thanksgiving break was enough, said Carol Balzer, the FSU’s administrative services manager. She points out that the academic calendar was different at the time and that mental health awareness wasn’t as big as it is today.

The academic calendar is created three years in advance in collaboration between the school’s registrar office and other student services, including the FSU. This means students have a say on the academic calendar and whether students should get a fall reading week or break.

“We listen to students,” FSU president Matt Stewart said. “But we also have to do what’s right for [them].”

Stewart says that if asked, students will of course say they want a fall reading week – but is it really in their interest? Do they really need it?

Fanshawe student Nick Lord thinks so.

“I think a fall reading week would be really helpful,” he said. “I feel like the workload in college is a lot more than the workload in university, especially based on hours in class. So, a fall reading week would really give students in the stress a break in staying busy through the week to sit back, relax, take it all in and catch up on school if they need to.”

Students interested in voicing their opinion about the lack of a fall break can do so through the FSU.