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Updated on Monday, October 20

#19976

OMG: My biggest complaint with the proposed Reading Break: nowhere have I seen ANY data that supports the claim mental health will be improved by a mid-term break. Yet this is time and time again cited as the primary reason for a break. Mental health has become a buzz word that we use whenever it seems like something we want is remotely related to it.

We have a few anecdotes about other schools, but I claim that the week during and after the Winter break are actually the MOST stressful, as profs assign much more work, and schedule all midterms around that time, with the anticipation that you use your break solely for studying. When all your profs do this, the idea of a "break" or "catching up" during this time goes out the window, as you just continue to study and work harder than ever.

66 comments

  1. you're a moron. do u work very hard during winter break? i know i don't, and profs surely don't assign buttloads of work.

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    1. What universe have you been living in?! My profs always assign double-length assignments during Reading Week, and schedule the midterms for the week or two immediately following it, saying "you'll have a whole week of nothing in which to work and prepare!" It sucks.

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    2. 1a: that's not allowed. You should report it.

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    3. 1b, name the policy that forbids it. Because every class in the Math faculty does this.

      Math: assignments are normally handed out every week. At reading week, they're always twice the length because students will have 2 weeks to write them.
      Midterms - first day of class, course outline, the prof says "I thought you would want a midterm after reading week so that you had more time to study for it." The midterm is sometimes the week immediately following RW, more often the week after that.

      Or here's a twist: I once had a prof assign TWO assignments for Reading Week. One was assigned beforehand and due the Monday after returning, the other was posted in the middle of RW and was due the Friday after returning.

      Fun times.

      If that's against policy, then I dare you to find a class in the Math Faculty that ISN'T in violation.

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    4. Says the guy who spells you as 'u'

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  2. you dumb motherfucker its needed because it gives the kids a break hence time to prepare for the upcoming fiasco of assignments and exams jumbled up together.

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    1. Since when are the students here kids?

      And that 'fiasco of assignments and exams jumbled up together' exists in the winter BECAUSE of the Reading Week. Instead of having reasonable assignments and midterms spread out across the term, profs inevitably give incredibly long assignments right before the break, and then slam us with exams right after, because 'you had a week off to study.'

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  3. Fuck fall reading week. What are we, Laurier? Get to work you lazy fucks.

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    1. Other than the Laurier jab, +1

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  4. Having a week off to catch up without missign lectures.... I don't understand how this is a negative thing. How can you not get work done during this time. It's ten days of literally nothing to do but study.

    Or ten days to vacation or whatever. Either way, it's a huge relief to not have to go to class and to have time to breathe and no that something isn't due the next day.

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    1. Maybe, I don't want to study for the 10 days and have a couple days to study before exams instead.

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  5. sure, there may not be evidence that it helps mental health, that you know of

    but that doesn't mean mental health is automatically a buzzword

    you also don't have evidence that profs uniformly assign more work to compensate or that they assume you just study during the break so you're basically slapping yourself in the face by your argument as any evidence that you come up with is almost guaranteed to be anecdotal whereas the benefit for mental health may or may not be anecdotal

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  6. do we lose the pre-exam study days if we get a fall reading week? b/c if I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the pre-exam study days!

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    1. No. As specified in the referendum, you explicitly will not lose pre-exam study days. Classes will start earlier to accommodate.

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    2. There were originally 3 options:

      -Lose half of Orientation Week and start classes on the Thursday after Labour Day (would reclaim 1-2 days);
      -Lose 1-2 pre-exam study days (would reclaim 1-2 days); or
      -Allow final exams to take place on Sundays (would reclaim 1-2 days).

      Feds determined through Students' Council that students didn't want the latter 2 options, and so the referendum is only being held on the 3rd option.

      That said, they're supposed to advocate for a FRW regardless, and only determine "the parameters of what students want" through referendum, so presumably if this question fails they'll have to hold another referendum on one of the other options.

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    3. I'd like to know how the students council of feds determined this, since I never heard of any feds students councillors asking students how they felt...

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    4. 6c, the councillors shared surveys, which they expected concerned students to fill out.
      I think the Math and Engineering Societies ran their own surveys.

      I'm friends with some of these people on facebook, which is how I know this.

      I agree that they absolutely could have done more. Feds isn't really addressing what the MGM demanded of them to do.

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    5. I'm a Councillor. It's not that we determined the reduced Orientation the most popular opinion, but rather that the Task Force created by the University Senate advised this is the only viable option.

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    6. 6b/d here,

      Thanks for the clarification, 6e! :D

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    7. Why hasn't there always been exams on Sunday who cares lol

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    8. 6g, you have to remember UW was founded in the 1950s. There's a policy stating that no classes/exams can occur on Sundays.

      ...I would certainly like it to happen.

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    9. ^ fucking Jews

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  7. Considering there is no definitive evidence that can be made of psychological impact without some form of bias your point is quite moot OP. Perhaps you should settle for a little less than university, perhaps toilet cleaning or porn star fluffer for your career.

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  8. To all those who wish to express their opinion on the Fall Reading Break referendum, the topic will be brought up in the Feds General Meeting.

    Please visit http://www.feds.ca/elections/referendum/ for more information on what the referendum entails. @comment6, the answer is no for this referendum only, although if the majority of students do not want orientation week to be pushed back, other options (like this one) will be considered.

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    1. Feds meeting? ain't nobody got time for that

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  9. Why do we need this now? Shouldn't those who can handle pressure and manage their time be rewarded for that? I mean what's the big deal? Everyone in your class more or less has the same academic pressures (in engineering at least...I think in arts it's more variable but if you're in arts then your workload shouldn't be an issue anyway).

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    1. Yeah. Workplaces all have their busy seasons, nobody says 'you should really take a week off right in the middle of that, to help your mental health!' They say 'grit your teeth, work hard, we'll get through this.' Because that's life.

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    2. Ah, yes, appeal to the status quo. Can't improve things because they'll always be bad!

      9, I have no idea how you see a lack of time off as "rewarding" hardworking students. Even the hardest working student can fall behind due to a cold or out-of-town interview or family problem or unexpected extracurricular commitment... it's not like extra time off *harms* people with their shit together, if anything it rewards them.

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    3. Yes, 9b, there's a definite benefit to time off.
      I'm not 9 btw, I like the idea of an extra day off in the Fall. But I'll be voting no in this referendum. I think the cost (giving up so much of Orientation Week and compressing what's left into an already crowded schedule), in this case outweighs the benefit (an extra day off sometime during the term).

      If they were asking about Sunday exams, I would've voted yes.

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    4. lol 9b, your comment reads like one of those fucks who says "we shouldn't have exams because they put too much stress and pressure on students without fairly assessing their knowledge!"

      Stress and pressure are a part of life. They will always be a part of life, no matter what anybody does to change it, because the world is to chaotic to have things any other way. We don't need to be sheltered from the stress now only to have to wake up and face the music the first time we, say, have a job that needs us to work regular overtime in order to meet strict deadlines in a crisis situation, and a 2-year-old kid at home with the flu, and not enough money available for the spouse to take time off of work.
      Better that we learn to deal with unyielding stress and pressure now. I'm all for the University providing mental health RESOURCES, but if you can't handle the natural heat your program puts on you, then get out of the kitchen.

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    5. > (giving up so much of Orientation Week and compressing what's left into an already crowded schedule)

      First off, I spent half of Orientation Week twiddling my thumbs. I don't know what crowded schedule you're referring to. I mean, this year they cancelled a whole day or two without a problem and the inevitable "rain day" also eats up a large chunk of time.

      But that's only part of it. Orientation only affects a fraction of campus. We have 30k undergrads, and maybe 7k frosh and 2k volunteers (generously) participate in O-week. That means less than 1/3 of campus are affected by the cut. Add in the effects on grad students and it affects an even smaller portion of the student body.

      Even Laurier cut their o-week. There is no benefit to dragging the damn thing out so long. Cut quantity and increase quality.

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    6. 9d: just because stress is inevitable doesn't mean we have an obligation to ensure student stress levels are as high as possible.

      I seriously have met maybe 10% of alumni who claim their work life post-graduation was equally or more stressful than their school life. I don't think this is an ideal we should strive for. It *isn't* a reflection of real life.

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    7. If the result of this would be a full week off during the Fall, then I'd say it was worth it. But it's not. Giving up half of Orientation Week will deprive first-year students of vital time needed to acclimatize to their new home, and will do further damage by cutting out the unstructured free time they currently have available during the Week. In that, it is a major threat to retention, both short and long term.

      Not worth it for a single day or two off.

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    8. >>Shouldn't those who can handle pressure and manage their time be rewarded for that?

      Well, for people who can handle pressure and manage their time, they get a week off to chill, hang out with friends, maybe take a trip while people who need the week to catch up on work do just that. I'd call that a reward.

      >>Everyone in your class more or less has the same academic pressures

      Okay, but what about external pressures aside from academics? You're assuming school exists in a vacuum where all other pressures vanish and everyone's on an equal playing field.

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    9. Not to pry or anything, assuming the ones in the arts faculty "have no problems" in their workload isn't reasonable...everyone has their own fair share of work.

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  10. Join the no committee then if you feel this strongly.

    There are positives and negatives with respect to a fall break and they should both be heard.

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    1. I'm personally opposed to a fall break, but I agree with this statement.

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  11. I'm opposed to this fall reading week and I agree with a lot of OP's point.

    I don't care if this sounds douche-baggy, but, if you can't handle some stress, responsibility and workload than drop out! This place clearly isnt for you. Everyone else has the same course load and responsibilities as you, if you can't handle that, you have far bigger problems than a few extra days to study. A few days, or a week to catch up, aren't going to magically relieve your stress, especially now when your prof's lay extra work and assignments on you because they see it was 'vacation' and not 'catch up time'. You'll still be stressed, you'll just be stressed in the DP or studying at home rather than in class.

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    1. > Everyone else has the same course load and responsibilities as you

      Lol no. Fuck off. Some programs require 60 hour weeks and others barely require half that.

      Also, you are making assumptions that everyone will be operating on the same optimal circumstances. You are not accounting for hardworking students that get sick, end up with family problems, etc. And if you claim there already exist accommodations for that, I can assure you that you are wrong.

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    2. >And if you claim there already exist accommodations for that, I can assue you that you are wrong.

      Student here who has been that guy with family issues, sickness, mental health problems, etc. I can assure you that your insistence that there AREN'T accommodations for that is bullshit. I've been accommodated every time.
      Sometimes it's an INC grade, sometimes it's a petition for exception to academic regulations (resulting in a CLR grade, wherein I frequently still get the credit without it affecting my average), sometimes it's just as simple as my prof letting me write my midterm a day later... but I've never had a class where I haven't eventually been accommodated in one way or the other.

      The problem is that I had to work hard to find these resources. The university doesn't make them very public - they don't reach out to you with assistance, you have to go looking for it. That in itself isn't a bad thing... but once I start to look, it should be easier to find what I need.

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    3. > INC grade

      Have to write the final one or more terms later. Forget all the material and have to study the entirety of the course after you've already forgotten it.

      > S&P Commission

      Inconsistent, every single one of mine has been rejected despite stronger reasons than others I know to have been accepted. I've been told S&P is only for students at risk of failing out.

      > wherein I frequently still get the credit without it affecting my average

      Frequently?! Fuck you. I don't know what faculty you're in but math will NOT do this.

      > midterm a day later

      Well isn't that what the break achieves?

      The only one I see missing here is

      > Assignment grade exemption or extension

      Which does me no favors as the damn thing is still relevant material I'm going to get tested on.


      None of these things fix the problem. And they're not even that well known, so many students can't even benefit from them. As the old cliché goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a lb of cure.

      And having studied full-time in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, I can definitely attest that Fall term is much more stressful and unfriendly to unforeseen problems due to the lack of breaks. Winter term has Reading Week *and* the Easter break; Spring term has Victoria Day, Canada Day, and the August long weekend. Only fall term has a single day off.

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    4. 11b here. Actually 11c, I'm in Math. S&P has never failed to grant me exemptions for petitions which had evidence (i.e. valid medical notes from doctors, counsellors, etc.) backing them.

      Regarding the 'still get credit for CLR' thing. This was a situation where I passed a course with just a little over 50, but failed the rest of my term due to, among other things, a death in my immediate family.

      S&P granted CLR grades to all course I took that term. The course I passed recieved one as well - meaning the grade was excluded from my average - but the credit remained on my transcript. That's how the CLR code works. Not to be confused with CLC (used in situations where you repeat a passed course), which suppresses the credit but maintains the grade for your average.

      I didn't know these were options for me. But my advisor did. As soon as I asked "what can be done" he immediately knew what to do. For that I am grateful.

      The point is, a single day or two off in the middle of the term aren't going to reduce the number of situations like mine... or even help them. The university needs to provide resources, not send students home for 2 days and hope they recuperate.

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    5. >>I don't care if this sounds douche-baggy, but, if you can't handle some stress, responsibility and workload than drop out!

      Yeah that is VERY douche-baggy. You sound like you've had a very easy time of school and that aside from typical school stress, you haven't run into problems and needed a little bit extra support or time or something to make it through the term.

      >>Everyone else has the same course load and responsibilities as you

      Not true in the slightest. Some people have extra responsibilities or extra stressors in their life on top of being a student. You can't assume everyone's experience will mirror your own.

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  12. I actually find it quite offensive that people seem to think an extra day off is going to solve anybody's mental health issues.

    I've suffered from some pretty serious depression before, much of it stress-related. In the winter term, Reading Week is usually the trigger for things to get a lot worse, because either I'm on vacation with family thinking about all the work I'm not getting to, or I'm so depressed I just stay in bed all day. Then the week after I have all these huge assignments due, and most of my midterms, and my grades just go to shit.

    A day off in the Fall isn't going to solve anything for me. If I'm feeling depressed, telling me 'oh, just don't come to campus tomorrow, we'll cancel classes that will help' just says you don't care about my issues.

    There are plusses to a Fall Reading break, really! But mental health isn't one of them. If the university honestly cared about student mental health, they'd focus on how to identify, target, and engage with those of us who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and excessive stress... and then they'd do it.

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    1. This is in your personal opinion, I have depression and feel quite differently on the matter. Although, I do agree more needs to be done for those who are struggling with mental health issues and that adding a fall reading week alone isn't going to solve everything.

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    2. 12 here,

      Fair enough 12a. Everyone's different - I don't "speak for the depressed" or anything so arrogant. I'm glad we see eye-to-eye on the University's need to better serve students with mental health issues. =)

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  13. Honest question: I've not been paying much attention recently. This semester I've noticed the term "mental health" being thrown around a lot. When/why has this become a buzzword?

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    1. It's become a very 'trendy' thing to bring up on university campuses over the last couple years after a slate of news articles talking about rates of depression and suicide on canadian campuses. Campaigns like 'Mental Wellness Day' have also been very effective in that sense.

      It's not a bad thing that people are all abuzz about the psychological well-being of students, but sadly the average person is also very ill-informed. So it's become commonplace for everything to be branded as a 'student mental health benefit' when it's:
      -Related to making exams easier or assignments fewer;
      -Social in nature; or
      -Non-academic "fun" (time off school, rooms with couches, etc.)

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  14. @OP A fall reading break (implemented so as to not increase academic stress re: midterms) was suggested in this comprehensive report from Queens University on student mental health: http://www.queensu.ca/cmh/index/CMHFinalReport.pdf

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    1. Implying academic stress is somehow too high.

      University is hard work, but it's hard work that occurs largely in a vaccuum. It's not true of all students, but the vast majority are at a place in their life where they don't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, paying taxes, sucking up to their boss, caring for a family/raising children, and building a future for themselves, all at the same time.
      They have to worry about, essentially, 4 things:
      -Passing their courses;
      -Making sure their education is funded (summer job, coop, mom and dad);
      -Having a social life;
      -Keeping themselves healthy (food, laundry, sleep, etc.).

      Class isn't even something that happens every day for some people! You'd think this would be a blessed time in life, to be a student. But NO! Apparently being asked to do ACTUAL work every week, and do your god-damned full-time job (being a student) that you get FOUR MONTHS OFF OF ANNUALLY (show me where that happens in the real world, seriously) is STILL TOO MUCH. You need to be cuddled, you need long breaks every 6 weeks, you need your exams to be less hard, your assignments to be less demanding, and your 5 years of freedom to pursue all knowledge to involve as LITTLE *actual* pursuit of knowledge as possible.

      Disgraceful. No wonder education is in the shitter. Maybe things would improve if the government mandated a couple years of military service for everyone straight out of high school.

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    2. Well 14, of course a reduction in stress would be good for student mental health.

      Except, as others have established in this thread, a reading week won't actually reduce stress. The assignments handed out beforehand all account for the extra week available in which to do them - some *special* assignments are handed out just FOR the week - and most of the midterms happen within 10 class days after the week ends.

      Sure, there will be a brief reduction in stress as every student enjoys their "marginally extended weekend" (c'mon mate, let's tell it like it is here), but then they all get hit with a FREIGHT TRAIN OF MAKEUP STRESS when they return to the utter hell that follows.

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    3. ^Is doing your assignments at home without 20+hours of class not a thing at all? Why is everyone implying that no one is capable of not fucking up their term instead of using the week to get back on track.

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    4. 14a: I've never had a job as stressful as school and will not accept one that comes anywhere close. I hardly know anyone whose life got *more* stressful after school.

      University stress is mostly manufactured as a result of school culture. It doesn't have to be this way and it is *not* child's play in comparison to the "real world". Both my parents are horrified by my workload and I'm taking a reduced courseload. Pure math bites. Engineering is brutal. People shouldn't have to feel like they're killing themselves just to study things they love.

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    5. 14d, for those of us who go on to get PhDs and then pursue academic research, the workload only gets worse after undergrad.

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    6. ^ 14e: every grad student friend that I have (all the way up to postdoc) disagrees with this statement, except at the postdoc level. Grad school is much easier than undergrad in a lot of ways.

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    7. 14f, well... yeah. I'll concede that much. I was referring to life in academia more than the process of getting there. Sorry for being imprecise.

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  15. I don't know about any of you but every term have a shit load of work stuffed into a 1-2 week period. Even if I don't have a week off for it to get "piled up".

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  16. The report to the Provost found no empirical evidence that it would help mental health, but none that it wouldn't either:

    https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat-general-counsel/sites/ca.secretariat-general-counsel/files/uploads/files/20141020oagsen.pdf

    Page 100.

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    1. Honestly, I think it varies from student to student, and from program to program.

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    2. But the primary reason people are calling for a break is that it helps mental health. This shouldn't be something we do just because it may or may not help. We need evidence!

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  17. It really confuses me when there are arguments that professors "pile on the work during winter reading week". That's the middle of term where there are usually midterms or essays due anyway. Usually terms get really busy during that middle of term (weeks 5-7) when the first midterms or essays are due and then again at the end of term (week 11-12) when exams are approaching or final projects/reports are due. Then if you're in a class that has weekly or bi-weekly lab reports or assignments, that occurs regardless of the reading week, the only thing different is I don't think assignments are due during the week so you get an extra week to do it. This is an overly simplistic view, but I yet to have anything "extra". Some professors might put their midterm after the break so you have the week to study for it, but you're going to have that midterm regardless. Without the reading week, you're studying for the midterm on top of classes and other stuff due.

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    1. Depends on your program, but I don't think this is true. I've taken courses in the Fall which I've previously failed in the Winter - same curriculum, same prof, etc. Except 4 page assignment that gets handed out right before Reading Week (followed by a 2 page assignment posted on LEARN at the end of Reading Week) gets replaced with two 2-page assignments spaced out over 2 weeks. Less work overall.
      Also, my midterms in terms other than the winter are generally very spaced out. In the Winter, they disproportionately occur right after Reading Week....

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  18. WHY THE FUCK IS THIS SO FUCKIN "POPULAR"?????

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    1. Because people love to complain about NOTHING

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  19. I have an entertaining party bag of diagnosed mental health issues, and unfortunately this Fall break won't help me in the least. This isn't to say that it isn't beneficial to students, but rather to say that mental health is a lot more complicated than the context in which it's being applied.

    One of my coping strategies is staying incredibly busy so that I don't have as much time to think about how much I hate myself and my life, so going home for Thanksgiving break gives me major anxiety because I'm not working/studying for midterms.

    I know I'm an edge case, but mental health is such a diverse issue that there's no way one scheduling change can effect everyone positively. An extra day off could do wonders for some, and drive others insane. Cutting Orientation could help some students who don't benefit as much from the week or have trouble with large crowds and/or social anxieties (like I do), but could also consequently rush students who need those few extra days to acclimatize and settle in.

    On the other hand, we could be looking at solutions that don't negatively impact a portion of our student population, such as hiring more staff to decrease wait times for a diagnosis process (which took me the better part of 10 months, due to staff changes and me falling through the cracks multiple times), working to increase availability of counsellors, holding workshops on the benefits or side effects of different antidepressants, building a network of students who are going through the same thing and are comfortable sharing their experiences and mentoring people who are new to their illnesses, and teaching a variety of coping strategies for a variety of mental health issues. (I acknowledge that some of these ideas could have flaws; I'm just throwing some ideas off the top of my head)

    Though these suggestions may not be full solutions and they may not positively impact some students as deeply as a Fall break, they wouldn't have as large or widespread of a negative impact on other students.

    I'd encourage the university to take a step back and look at what would make the widest positive or neutral impact, because if they want to take mental health seriously, they have to recognize that one solution doesn't work for everyone, and negative mental health consequences are no small matter.

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