Next year, students may see the addition of a new fall study break, however, this may bring considerable changes to the structure of O-Week. A proposal of a two-day fall reading break, which would be placed at the third weekend of October, would potentially affect the placement and possibly the length of WLU’s traditional weeklong O-Week.
“It came up at senate last fall, when I was presenting the academic dates,” said Ray Darling, registrar and commissioner of oaths at WLU. “That day, people had questions. They were questioning the length of the orientation period, as well as the possibility of a fall study break.”
After the senate meeting, a committee was formed that included David McMurray, vice president of student affairs, and former Wilfrid Laurier Students Union president and CEO Kyle Walker.
“We drafted a proposal that would have people start class on the Thursday instead of the following Monday after Labour Day,” said Darling. “What we’d have to do is start classes a little bit earlier.”
The proposal was then discussed again last week by the committee and was also sent out over the summer to all the division councils. Darling aims to present the finished proposal to the WLU senate in November, should it pass at the senate academic meeting next Monday.
“The reason why we’re doing this is to benefit the students,” he said. “The big concern is the impact on orientation week.”
Orientation week could shorten by up to two days with classes taking place on the Thursday and Friday in order for two days to free up later in the term. The other option was to use the two study days in between classes and finals.
“You’re going to run into issues when you push it back,” said Emily Butcher, a head icebreaker during this year’s O-Week. “Dons would also need to be trained earlier, and prepared earlier, and would have to be on duty longer, because they’d have that extra weekend to have to watch students.”
Although this is one issue that may arise, Butcher claimed there would be more to the logistical issues than residence life and programming challenges.
“Nobody really likes the idea of having to change O-Week, and this year we made a lot of changes. There were a lot of issues but there were also a lot of positives that happened with it,” she reflected. “Changing so much at once, there have been a lot of questions as to what is the value of O-Week, and cutting it down to four days is a possibility.”
Butcher was concerned that, even though with WLUSU out to represent students’ interests in this proposal, O-Week would be cut down regardless.
In defense of a weeklong O-Week, Butcher stated that she, along with other icebreakers and volunteers, would be enraged should orientation week be cut.
“The programming is really important. Laurier is supposed to be the number one orientation program in the country. It’s like that for a reason. That’s why we have a week. It’s called O-Week,” she explained. “It’s not just about pushing O-Week back two days when you really think about it.”
Nick Gibson, WLUSU president and CEO, was also concerned about the proposal.
“As long as we’re not overly compromising our ability to deliver great programming for Orientation Week, I’ll be okay with it,” he said. “I know there are many merits, it’s pretty well known that there is overwhelming support from students to have that break. How it is actually done, that’s where some conflict tends to come up.”
Gibson sees the opportunity to create synergy between orientation week and academics.
“I’d envision there would be programming going on the Thursday and Friday nights, with classes going on during the day,” he explained. “Essentially, the idea there, my fear is that people will see this as cutting up O-Week, but I see it as sort of an integrated thing.”
It is Gibson’s expectation that allowing students a break in the fall semester would benefit everyone with their academics. “If you’re in a spot where there seems like no end, there’s no room to breathe, by any stretch of the imagination that is a huge mental health strain.”
He claimed that at the end of the day it is important that students get a break, even just to relax for a few days whether or not they have work to catch up on.
“Whatever they decide to do that’s their prerogative. Giving them that opportunity, ultimately if we want to be a university that supports academic success, we need to be open to what most of the universities do, and that’s giving some sort of a break.”