Across Canada, some universities have extended their winter break by a week, but UBC hasn’t yet followed suit.
Concordia, Wilfrid Laurier, Waterloo and the University of Toronto have all delayed the start of their January semester to give faculty, staff and students an extra week of break. Meanwhile, more than 9,000 have signed a petition at McGill calling for the same.
At UBC, a spokesperson said there are no plans to delay winter term two.
“UBC is actively monitoring COVID-19 and working with provincial and regional public health agencies to determine appropriate and flexible responses as required,” said Matthew Ramsey, university spokesperson, in an email. “At this time, the start date for Winter Term 2 remains unchanged.”
However, a screenshot posted to Reddit appears to show an Instagram message from President Santa Ono saying that he has asked the UBC Senate to consider an extension.
Student senator Eshana Bhangu said that the process for extending winter break requires some time.
“This is pretty complicated. UBC considered this decision back in the summer, and even earlier this month,” she said.
Bhangu added that UBC is concerned about shortened teaching days. “[The school] needs to have a minimum of 60 days,” she said. “Did you know that UBC has the second-lowest number of teaching days of any major university? Unfortunately, extending the break means cutting into those days.”
She reiterated further the tradeoffs of UBC deferring the winter semester.
“Students are going to have a condensed exam period, the break between the end of winter term two and summer term one is cut down, and the school possibly giving up the reading break in February,” Bhangu said. “Prolonging the winter break is not impossible, but UBC considers the tradeoffs.” While students in universities like Concordia are enjoying an additional week of vacation, their final exams will extend to May.
Bhangu also talked about the housing situation and contractual issues that could arise should the winter semester be delayed.
Despite drawbacks, students recognize the benefits of a longer winter break, particularly amid the shift to online classes.
“It would be a mental break for students. They get extra time to calm down from all the stress from term one,” said second-year student Art Saarloos. “Also, my entire family is in Greece. An extra week would have meant more time with my family.”
However, Saarloos understands UBC's decision not to delay the winter semester.
“As someone interested in interning this summer, I would want my summer to be as long as possible. Also, even if term two ends as planned, with the delay in the semester, the term would seem rushed.”