Unless a quick and concerted push by our Students Union is in the works, we’re not getting a fall break in 2013. The time for gathering a wide sample of student input, in which we’ll weigh the many pros and cons for each of the faculties, is gone. It’s probably just too late.
I don’t mean to sound entitled, but a commitment to creating a fall break was a big part of our MSU president’s platform when she ran last winter. It was made very clear. If elected, Siobhan Stewart would work with University Administration to create a break lasting anywhere from a day to a week around Thanksgiving for 2013.
She got elected, and she started her job as the Students Union’s CEO in May. But before proceeding in her discussions with the University, she wanted to be sure she had the mandate from students to ask for the fall break, and wanted to be clear on what that mandate was. Not a bad idea.
Getting direction from a student body like ours, though, is hard. As big as the issue might be – and don’t get me wrong; a fall break is a big issue – no call for feedback will give you a representation of our students’ interests in which you’re totally confident. Our campus of more than 20,000 full-time undergrads is just not engaged enough. If it’s consensus you’re looking for, you’re never going to be satisfied.
But, symbolic as they might be, there are ways to strengthen a mandate before you approach University administrators. It’s the job of the SRA, for example, to define direction for the MSU. A vote from those 35 members represents a vote from students. (Never mind the low voter turnout SRA elections receive.) A simple poll on the MSU website, even, could have been launched during Welcome Week.
Mind you, the mandate was strong to begin with. Voter turnout at the MSU’s 2012 presidential elections was at about a third of eligible voters. As McMaster student elections go, that’s huge. And as difficult as it is to know just how a person wins an election, you’ve got to assume that their platform has something to do with it.
Kudos to Stewart for including a fall break in her platform last winter at all, and for looking into the various options of how a break would look. I believe that Stewart’s pending search for student input comes from a genuine desire to know what students really want.
But at some point – sooner rather than later – we need to move forward.
At least in my humble opinion, a fall break, be it a day or a week, is a good idea. It’s got ramifications for student mental health and, almost as importantly, an undeniable “cool” factor.
But regardless of what I believe, we need to pick our position and go with it. We don’t need to flatter ourselves by believing that the University will pass what we students (or our representatives) say we want without running it past the inevitable criticisms throughout the University.
And you can’t balance a teeter-totter by sitting in the middle.
But like I said, I’m not optimistic. I’m worried that we’re started onto a series of discussions and online surveys as our student leaders cycle through year to year. I’m worried that we’ll never get enough steam behind this idea to make it happen.
But I’d love for the MSU and the University to team up and prove me wrong.