This Friday, the University Senate will be debating a motion which directly impacts the upcoming academic year for all undergraduate students on our campus.

This year, student leaders from across this campus have worked together and advocated on behalf of students to our university administration to implement a week-long reading break in first semester. The work of the University Students’ Council and the Western student senators is continual, and it is now time for Western administration to make the ultimate decision.

In light of recent tragedies that have and continue to shake our community, it is a core role of student leaders to ensure that students health and well-being remain a priority not just in regards to student support services, but into the structure of the academic experience as well.

A petition administered by the Faculty of Health Sciences Students’ Council that asked students to support a full Reading Week following the Thanksgiving weekend garnered signatures of over 5,625 respondents.

Many students and their families provided powerful testimonials highlighting the need to introduce a break where students can prioritize their health for a full week amidst the hectic midterm examination season. The data and testimonials showcase that providing an additional two days off from the academic year to recharge is essential to the betterment of the mental, physical and emotional health of students at this world-class institution.

In 2013, The Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors stated that the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern, with 46.2 per cent of students listing anxiety as an issue for them. Students deserve a university that encourages academic prosperity in a way that doesn’t undermine health and well-being, but supports and encourages it.

Friday is thus an important day for Western students. If a Fall Reading Break is approved, this decision will signify not only the power of collective student voices and the effectiveness of collaboration in student advocacy, but it will also signify that the health and well-being of students is and will continue to be a priority for Western administration. It will mark a change in the academic sphere at Western and hopefully an ongoing trend to integrate health and well-being into the core of academics at Western.  

Students have acted. Students have researched. Students have lobbied. Students have made their voice on this issue loud and clear. It is time for Western administration to take students needs and opinions on what is best for their own well-being into consideration.

There’s a reason that 75 per cent of Ontario universities have fall breaks that are four days or longer. It’s because it positively affects students at those institutions. It helps international and out-of-province students who can’t afford to go home for only three days. It helps first years who are adjusting to university life. It helps students who feel overwhelmed. It helps students with their mental health, and it helps all students who just need a break.                

We ask that in these days you continue to express your support in advance of Friday’s meeting. Reach out to your faculty and affiliate councils, reach out to your faculty administrators, reach out to your student senators and your USC executives. Support this issue and make your voice heard. The power of the students' voice and our strength in numbers means that if we all make our voices heard it will eventually be too loud for administration to ignore.

We need #FiveFullDays

- Jamie Cleary, USC vice-president, and Harry Orbach-Miller, chair of the Western student senators