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MRU students catch a break

Starting in the fall of 2017, students at Mount Royal University (MRU) will have a reading week added to their academic calendar.

The break will take place after Thanksgiving, from Oct. 9 to Oct. 13, 2017.

“I would be interested,” said Jacki Reimer, a library information technologies student at SAIT.

“I overheard SAIT can’t do that, though, because of the shorter semesters. I don’t think it would happen, but it’s a dream.”

At SAIT, the deans and the vice president academic set the academic schedule.

When asked, SAIT officials said there are currently no plans to add a fall reading week at this time.

“We are required to provide a set number of hours of instruction in order to maintain our ability to grant degrees and diplomas,” said Chris Gerritsen, SAIT’s media representative.

The addition of the reading week at MRU is based on a commitment to students’ academic success and mental health at the university.

The MRU President’s Task Force on Student Mental Health first recommended adding a fall reading week in 2013.

“The task force was created out of recognition that more students are seeking support for increasingly complex mental health challenges,” said Bryan Weismiller, media relations officer for MRU.

“In the world of academic policy and governance, this was a slam dunk.”

The MRU General Faculty Council accepted the proposal on Nov. 17, 2016.

“We are pleased with what the policy change means for students,” said Weismiller. “As a student-focused institution, we take enormous pride in our commitment to student success and student satisfaction.”

The Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) advocated for the fall semester reading week and applauds the decision.

“There were a couple factors that motivated our advocacy in this area, but overall, it was the recognition that a fall reading week can be a very useful tool for providing support to students,” said Robbie Nelson, SAMRU vice-president academic.  

SAMRU said the break allows students the opportunity to improve both their academic achievements and overall quality of life.

SAMRU had advocated the break, but the final decision was left to the MRU president’s task force.

“Personally, I’m very enthusiastic that we were finally able to get the fall reading week approved,” said Nelson.

“From the perspective of SAMRU vice-president academic, I’m looking forward to seeing the impacts that this will have and the benefits that this will provide for MRU students.”

University administrators will monitor the effects of the fall reading break through students’ GPAs, retention rates and satisfaction surveys.

However, some students are not sold on the idea of a fall reading week.

“For fall? No, because we have Christmas to look forward to,” said Omari Fraser, business administration student at SAIT.

“A week in February is better off to recharge before summer.

“We are conditioned to make it to Christmas,” said Fraser. “Maybe we could get a day off in November at most.”

Oday Bentaley, a SAIT student in the English language foundation program, said, “I don’t think so. I have too many things to do. I want to get to Christmas.”

Since 2013, several post-secondary institutions in Alberta have introduced a fall reading week into their academic calendar.

Some of the post-secondary institutions that have added a fall break include the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Alberta and St. Mary’s University.

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