I understand why it exists, I appreciate what it does, however it remains as one of the most poorly implemented attempts to fix the issues of mental health on campus.

Back in 2015, the university, in collaboration with Students’ Union, conducted multiple studies to investigate when student mental health is at its worst. The study found that the middle of November was the hardest time, when large volumes of assignments are due. Their solution was to implement a reading week during November. According to hearsay, however, I have heard it was a knee-jerk reaction to a student suicide on campus. And for the past two years, it has caused more problems than it has solved.

For a quick disclaimer, I do appreciate the week off. I’ve used it to go see family I would otherwise not be able to in the winter and summer breaks. That doesn’t mean it’s still not trash.

The main issue I have with this week is its placement in the semester. It’s too far into the semester to feel like an effective break. It’s too close to the winter break, which for some is almost three weeks long. It just upends the flow of the semester. We have a week off, then we have winter break a few weeks later, and then winter semester reading break. The break just removes the momentum you build for yourself for the semester and try to (and probably fail to) regain before finals.

The main justification for this misguided break is always mental health. The university thinking it can solve student mental illness is laughably naïve. The very nature of university is stressful. The loans, the class load, the rush of the semester. The university would have to change the very fundamentals of its institution in order to combat the stress caused by school.  This was a great opportunity for Students’ Union, and largely university administration, to throw their shoulders out patting themselves on the back for “solving” this issue.

On a more personal note, fall reading week this year aligns with an anniversary of personal tragedy. I’d rather just spend my time working on my assignments and essays to keep my mind busy. Now, I have a week off for to be reminded of it. I realize this is an issue that only pertains to me, but I assume I’m not alone in this sentiment.

I know it’s not going to magically change after three years of this “successful” break, because how else is the university going to pretend like they care about students and not our tuition bills?

Image courtesy of Tim Gouw
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