By: Tyson Lautenschlager
Students have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Ontario college faculty strike since its beginning. Humber College students are now in the middle once again with the news of the cancellation of the winter semester reading week.
In anticipation of finishing the school year on time, Humber has decided to scrap its planned February study break.
An email was sent out to all students last week from the dean of their school with a revision of calendar dates, assuming the strike is brought to an end by the impending faculty vote this week.
Reading weeks, while technically put in place to help students catch up on work and study for classes, are also known to be imperative for student mental health and well-being.
Aimee Calma, a member of the board of directors for the College Students Alliance, said the loss of a reading week will have a negative impact on students.
“I think we live in an increasingly stressful society. We have a lot of additional stressers, and I think a lot of our students are more in-tune with their mental well-being and mental health,” said Calma. “They know what they need, and that’s why these breaks have been a success and why they’ve been expanding them. To take them away in a crucial time is very disappointing and upsetting to see.”
Fred Phelps, the campaign’s chair of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, said that breaks are important not only for students, but also for teachers, counsellors and administrators.
“A week away, and what an individual does with that week, can be extremely powerful when it comes to their mental health,” he said. “People who are experiencing higher anxiety need to work with those around them to recognize and plan for those times of stress. It’s not necessarily the week break itself.”
Calma said it’s important for each college to work with their student governments to find answers that work for students.
“It’s an institution specific thing. Right now the colleges have their own choice as to how they want to make up their time. I think they need to ask their students. I think they need to work with their student associations. They are effectively the student voice on campus,” she said. “They need to work with those associations and keep their students first in mind when they are developing these plans.”
Maja Jocson, President of IGNITE, Humber’s student government, has been working with Humber’s Dean of Students Jen McMillen to get answers.
“They told me that they’re still going to try to at least fit in a study day because that’s important,” she said. “I don’t know when they’re going to put that in, but for IGNITE, that’s when we’re going to be included in the conversation. We’re going to keep pushing for at least one or two days.”
While Humber students are getting the answers they’re looking for, students at the University of Guelph-Humber are still left in the dark.
“John (Kokkoros, Vice-President of IGNITE for Guelph-Humber) just had a meeting and those are the questions he asked,” Jocson said. “John’s just trying to figure out and make that same connection. They’re working on something, but we aren’t aware of anything right now. That’s unfortunate because if we don’t know anything, then neither do the students.”
The results of a faculty vote that could have teachers back in the classroom by next week are expected to be released by Friday. The vote begins electronically on Tuesday.