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Updated on Saturday, October 11


OMG: Currently doing my PhD (2nd year) at a school with a Fall reading week. I highly recommend it (from both a student and a TA's point of view) and would suggest that current UW students petition for it. - Former UW student


  1. A Fall Reading WEEK is a good - albeit impractical - idea for Waterloo.

    Why is it impractical? The curse of the Spring term. Because we run a full academic term AND co-op stream in the Spring, we can't back up the start of classes far enough to free up a full week in the Fall.

    There are only 3 ways we can free up days in the Fall:

    -Start classes on the Thursday of Orientation Week, and cut Orientation Week short (frees up 1-2 days). This is being voted on in a Feds Referendum next month.
    -Get rid of some of the study days in between the end of classes and the start of exams (frees up 1-2 days). Student surveys by Feds Councillors rejected this option, so it's not being considered.
    -Hold final exams on Sundays (frees up 1-2 days). The faculty are unwilling to do this, so it's also not being considered.

    At most we can get 2 days off during the term. However, some years this will need to be only 1 day. In years when labour day falls on September 7th (next year, if I'm not mistaken, is such a year), the school is confronted with an option of holding one class day on a Saturday, or having final exams on Christmas Eve (with no emergency make-up day). In the event that part of Orientation Week were given up, they'd use it to retrieve that extra class day instead.

    So the question isn't "do you want a Fall Reading Week?" It's "do you want an extra day or 2 off at some random point during the term?" These days also won't fall around the Thanksgiving Weekend because apparently the conflicts between co-op interviews and midterms would become too severe.

    1. Brilliant explanation. I'm just confused about one thing, so can you please elaborate on this part right here?

      "The curse of the Spring term. Because we run a full academic term AND co-op stream in the Spring, we can't back up the start of classes far enough to free up a full week in the Fall."

      How does having a co-op stream and academic term on Spring prevent the university from backing up the start of classes far enough again?

    2. 1a, happy to be of some service, I'll try to help. Bear in mind that I'm just an anonymous friend on the internet; anything I say is subject to some doubt, and you're welcome to send an e-mail to the Feds VP Education if you want to confirm any of these facts (he's really an expert on Fall Reading Days at this point).

      Now, as far as Spring term is concerned, the main issue is the problem of minimum class days, as well as the minimum length of a co-op term. Most co-ops run their work terms right to the end of August, and those that don't only get 1 week between the end of their work term and the start of Orientation Week (hence the standard 2 weeks off, for most of them). This is also the time normally reserved by most staff and faculty for their annual vacations.

    3. the argument against it is that it will interfere with co-op and faculty vacations?

      I am not in co-op, but I work from the first opportunity after exams right up until the first day of classes. I am sorry, but I don't feel sorry for a student not getting 'break' between work and school.

      Wouldn't it make more sense to give some time off during the school term when the ENTIRE studying student body is swamped, rather than when a working group of students need some 'vacation' time?

    4. 1c, I believe the problem deals more with the former issue than the latter. That is to say, the problem of mininum mandatory class days in order for the term to meet with accreditation requirements for its various programs. Good luck finding a school that has a full 13-week spring term, plus exams.

      If you want more detail on this, I strongly recommend contacting someone in the Registrar's Office. They'll explain much more clearly than I can why there are no days in the calendar at the end of August that can be sacrificed.

  2. @1c that time is not just for vacation. People do co-op in different provinces/countries so they need to time to get back to Waterloo, get their priorities in order etc. You not being in co-op you wouldn't understand everything that goes on :)

    1. this, think a little 1c

    2. Uh, there's even less time between Winter and Spring to move for coop. Not sure what the issue is here, you are talking about a 17 week coop, not 16.

  3. On a personal level I am opposed to a fall reading week because I personally don't need a break throughout the term, if anything it throws off my 'rhythm' of being completely in the study/school mode, rather than relaxing co-op mode. Again, this is me personally.

    On a school-wide level, so many students are from places far away from Waterloo, across Ontario, Canada, and the globe I feel it is far beneficial to all those students to have extra moving/family time between terms than a break in the middle of a tern.

    I am a 3rd year Eng. student from T.O. by the way if you want some context for my opinion/views.

    1. If we sacrifice any days of o-week, IMO they should go towards extending the Christmas break.

    2. I'm much less concerned about making things a little harder for you to balance than I am with providing relief to all the mentally ill (or otherwise healthy but unreasonably stressed) students on campus who NEED those days off to get things in order. I've spent 4 fall terms, 2 winter terms and 3 spring terms on campus and fall is by far the most stressful and difficult to deal with from an anxiety/depression/stress standpoint. A week would be amazing, but a couple days is a great start.

    3. I should also add, as I only really alluded to it above... for some of us, having that extra time means we won't cut ourselves, won't be hospitalized on account of breakdowns, won't commit suicide. Have some empathy -- this campus is already hostile enough for mental illness, and I'd like to see a much healthier and supportive culture going forward.

    4. 3b/c, I tend to disagree with your statement, as much as I respect your intentions. I am always at my MOST stressed out DURING/immediately after Reading Week, and Winter term has always been the most unkind to me because of it.

      Without fail, my profs always use the same reasoning:
      -"Next week is reading week, so your assignment is twice as long since you don't have class to distract you." (3x as long if the assignment is due at the end of the week after reading week)
      -"I want to give you reading week to study for the midterm, so we'll have the midterm in the week AFTER reading week (a noble intention, but falls apart miserably when 4 different classes ALL do this).

      And of course, my family wants to use Reading Week to go on a vacation/trip, and I don't have time to do ANY of this extra work. So I get back on the Thursday/Friday at the end of Reading Week, and have to pull multiple all-nighters in order to get ready for the freight train that is the following weeks.
      So by the end of winter term, I'm usually stressed out of my mind, not doing so well in my classes because my midterms flopped, my social life is suffering, and I am combatting reactive depression because of all of that.

      You want to know what will improve my mental health? A SHORTER term with a LONGER cooling-off period at the end of it for me to enjoy some STRESS-FREE relaxation, that's what.

      I call bullshit on any study that suggests reading week improves mental health.

    5. 3c, if you're suffering from mental health issues, having a couple days when you don't have to come to campus isn't going to solve anything. If anything, the extra work will only increase everyone's stress.

      If the campus wants to really tackle the problem of student mental health and wellness, they need to seriously look at how to recognize, approach, and engage with students who are suffering from extreme stress/depression/anxiety/loneliness/homesickness, NOT just say "oh, well don't come to school for a couple days, that'll help."

    6. ^ are these people serious? Two days without deadlines or midterms won't reduce stress?

      It's really obvious neither of the above posters have experienced any mental health issues.

    7. Original number 3 poster here,

      I agree with posters 3d-3f, I don't think that a few extra days will make a difference if people are battling mental health problems. I think that is a much deeper rooted issue than a few days off can fix.

    8. O-week is really fun. u get to party AND do drugz.

      umm, sucks to have mental health issuez. I guess u better spank ur children when they spank u.

  4. whoopz, didn't know i'm not allowed to pop