The AMS executive has been pushing for a fall reading break, taking into consideration mental health and well-being. The exec has been seeing largely positive feedback from faculty, staff and students about this possibility.
“As postsecondary institutions continue addressing mental health concerns in education, university officials seek to evaluate ways in which administrative changes may impact student stress in the most positive way,” wrote Lina Castro, the AMS Mental Health and Well-Being Commissioner, in a draft copy of the Reading Break Proposal that will be taken to the UBC senate.
The exec hopes to convince senate and faculty that the reading break would be beneficial. The proposal will be coupled with other changes in scheduling and course delivery that are intended to improve well-being. These changes include having a notation for dropping a course due to extenuating circumstances and more defined requirements for syllabi. The AMS exec plans on bringing all of these issues to senate as a package.
“I think the conversation is much more broad, which is good because … ultimately it means we won’t be getting one and not the other,” said Jenna Omassi, VP academic and university affairs.“We will be getting what we ask for ... but it means that it will take a bit longer, because it is going to be a longer conversation.”
The exec acknowledges that students are in need of this break, but this a complicated process that not only involves the students on the UBC Vancouver campus, but also the staff, students and faculty of UBCO.
“To be perfectly honest, students that are looking for something to be happening right now — it’s not happening. The academic side of this institution moves at snail pace,” said Omassi. “I predict we will see a fall reading break in 2017.”
Even though this process is going to be a long one, Castro still says that she feels as though they are moving fast.
“No one has been pushing back ... everyone I have talked to has been really receptive to all of these ideas,” she said. “It seems like a lot of people have been talking about it, but not sure what to do in their position.”
A group of students in the Faculty of Applied Science are in the beginning of creating quantitative data to support the AMS initiative, through a survey and a petition that they hope will show how important the reading break is for students and potentially faculty.
“We don’t have a moment to appreciate how good of a job [we] are doing … and appreciate how crazy the stuff is [that] you are learning about. I am actually hating my degree right now because I don’t have time to sleep,” said Amanda Santoro, one of the second-year students, in the Faculty of Applied Science who is creating the petition. “I feel like if we all had a minute to take a breath, we could appreciate life a little bit more.”
The petition will mix quantitative and qualitative questioning that will allow the university to develop a strategic outlook on the potential reading break and clearly understand student perspectives when making decisions surrounding university scheduling.