With the fall break over, students have trudged back to school for the November grind, with the end of the semester in sight.
But next year, a new fall break format is expected to bring drastic changes to the structure of the fall semester at McMaster University.
In the Oct. 19 Student Representative Assembly meeting, lost in the interest in the year-end celebration decision, the SRA voted to recommend a new fall break format for next year. The proposals, brought forward by MSU president Teddy Saull, motioned for either a full week or a two-day fall break, beginning in the fall of 2015.
Following deliberation, members of the SRA voted 18-9-1 in favour of the full week recommendation to the Fall Break Committee. Rather than two separate breaks, the Thanksgiving weekend would be extended into a full week off.
“[The vote] shows that the group wanted it, but since it wasn’t a unanimous vote, I think it also shows that there are a lot of different opinions out there, because it impacts every student in a different way,” said Saull.
This is the second year of a two-year pilot project that began in the 2013-14 academic year, in which a two-day hiatus helped break up the long stretch of school between Thanksgiving and the beginning of exams. The pilot was reevaluated by a Fall Break Committee consisting of voices at all levels in the university, including the registrar, associate deans of various faculties, and the MSU president. With the approval of the SRA for the committee to pursue the full week, the proposal is expected to go through and be implemented in time for next year, said Saull.
“The Provost, from the feedback that they’ve heard, is thinking that this is going to go through,” he said. “But it will depend on going through several governing bodies [like] the Provost’s Council, and then it has to go to Undergraduate Council, and then Senate, so if [any of them] shoot it down, it wouldn’t go through.”
Regardless of the decision, both the full-week break and two-day break were going to require noticeable changes to the semester and testing schedule. A number of programs at McMaster, specifically in engineering, have accreditation requirements that require students to be in class for a certain number of hours, meaning that time has to be taken from other areas of the semester.
In order to accommodate a full-week break, three main changes were proposed by the committee and brought forward by Saull. Move-in for Welcome Week would be pushed earlier to the Thursday and Friday before Labour Day, as opposed to the Saturday and Sunday as has been the case in previous years. In addition, the gap day that currently exists as a buffer between final classes and the exam term would be dissolved, and the time allotted for exams would be shortened from three hours to two and a half, or even two hours.
As Saull explained, these changes are a result of a late Labour Day in 2015; therefore, even a two-day break would still necessitate some combination of the proposed changes for a full week break.
“Next year, any break would be different from this year because of the schedule. The calendar is different next year, as Labour Day and Christmas are closer together.”
Based on the discussions at the SRA meeting, students were also concerned with the impact that an entire week off would have on the schedule of midterms. Concerns largely focused on mental health for students, but it was agreed that a full week off was a more effective break. One benefit is that it allows long-distance and first-year students a good opportunity to be able to go home.