New Brunswick

UNB adds reading week to fall semester starting in 2018

Students at the University of New Brunswick will get a few extra days off in the fall after the university senate passed a three-year pilot project to offer a reading week during the fall semester.

Students voting in plebescite backed the fall break, which will be a 3-year experiment

The University of New Brunswick Student Union held a plebiscite on the idea of a fall break, and most of those who voted were in favour. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)

Students at the University of New Brunswick will get a few extra days off in the fall after the university senate passed a three-year pilot project to offer a reading week during the fall semester.

The break will take advantage of Remembrance Day, which students already get off, and a reading day that occurs that same week.

The pilot project starts with the 2018-19 school year.

Herbert Bempah, the UNB Student Union's vice-president internal, said the current break isn't long enough.

"We thought that although these two days are very helpful for students [to] just reflect on the semester and catch up with studies ... it just wasn't enough and more days should be added on to these two days," Bempah said.

The Student Union held a plebiscite on the issue, and the proposed fall break won the support of 97 per cent of the 1,200 students who voted.

George MacLean, UNB's vice-president academic, said the break will help faculty as well.

"It also allows faculty members an opportunity to get caught up on their teaching as well as their research responsibilities," MacLean said.

Good for student experience

It wasn't long ago that the university offered only Remembrance Day as a day off during the fall. Some may question the need for a whole week off now, but MacLean he said he would've appreciated such a break as an undergrad.

"We're now more conscious of the needs of students in terms of their overall experience at the university," he said. "What can we do, what can we provide for them to enhance their success."

The delayed start to the pilot project is necessary because the 2017-18 academic calendar has already been written. Bempah said the delay will also give the university time to consult various departments about the impact on the academic schedule..

Travis Daley, the Student Union president, said it will be important to make sure the added days off are made up somewhere during the year.

"We want to make sure students have ample time in the classroom to get the [knowledge] that they need," Daley said. 

"They could start a day earlier, and end a day later. They could move two days where they feel it's appropriate, they could move exams to take place over a weekend."

Will see how it works

Daley said the reason the break is only a pilot instead of permanent is to give the university a chance to evaluate it, before committing to it for the long haul.

"By being three years, it allows the university to take in data, to make sure that it's working the way it's supposed to," said Daley.

Mount Allison University and the Université de Moncton already offer week-long breaks in the fall. St. Thomas University doesn't, but university spokesman Jeffrey Carleton said STU hasn't ruled the idea out.

"We added one reading day to the week of Remembrance Day making it four days in total without classes," he said. "Now as we plan the next academic year, we will likely look at this issue again and see what options best fit STU and our students."