University of Alberta Students' Union president Nick Dehod is advocating for a longer fall reading break. Currently, both the U of A and University of Calgary receive a four day break during the Remembrance Day long weekend as well as a week-long winter break in February. Dehod is hoping to extend the fall break to cover a full work week as well.
Dehod said an increase of mental health problems for students during that time of year triggered his push for a longer break.
"Last year, November was the time of the year when our student counseling services were utilized most," said Dehod. "[I] started wondering what sort of proactive things could be done to help students."
He added that having an academic side to the break makes an "explicit statement" the university wants students to succeed.
"You can have a natural follow up from orientation for students in their first year," said Dehod.
Dehod suggested the university could test writing skills or hold development training for staff during this time.
Despite possible benefits, the mandatory number of instructional days is hindering Dehod's proposal. The U of A must have 63 instructional days per semester -- adding a week-long break would force the semester to start earlier or end later. Currently the U of A fall semester runs Sept. 8 to Dec. 8.
"We don't want to push the calendar back because then we're getting closer toward Christmas and people need to get home," said Dehod.
"There are some concerns in terms of logistics," he said. "You're potentially getting students to lose a week's worth of work but, on the other hand, you're providing people with a break in November."
Dehod and the U of A SU will hold a plebiscite in early March for students to vote on the issue.
"We need to check whether to get that fall reading week if [students] are willing to come back a week early," said Dehod.
If students vote in favour of the change, the calendar could be updated as soon as the 2012/13 academic year.
"I think it'd be a good idea," said first-year business student Robert Rogers about a longer fall break at the U of C. "Most of the people in this university worked hard to get here, which means they're committed to study more over the long week."
U of C SU vice-president academic Alyssa Stacy agreed a longer fall reading break would be beneficial to students, but said it would be difficult because of block week courses -- classes the U of A doesn't offer.
"Block week bumps up the start time already," she said. "We could push block week into the summer, but we'd still end late."
Rogers said that would be a fine trade off.
"A few days wouldn't hurt my vacation plans that much," he said.
Block week courses wouldn't be the only roadblocks, said Stacy.
"There's a certain amount of hours per course and sometimes there's not enough time in the months with a longer break," said Stacy.
"The registrar has organized the academic schedule up to 2014, so it would be difficult to persuade the U of C to have a longer break," she said. "There'd be a lot of program and schedule changes, making more work on the registrar."
Dehod said the four-day reading break does give students a break, but more needs to be done.
"It's a question of what sort of breaks are being supplied in the fall semester and whether or not four days is enough," he said.