UNB approves fall reading week

The University of New Brunswick administration approved a fall reading week Wednesday evening.

Herbert Bempah, vice-president internal of the University of New Brunswick Student Union, said the union asked for three additional days to be added to the already existing reading day and Remembrance Day holiday.

UNB’s administration was concerned with maintaining 62 teaching days in the semester. Those three days have to be made up during the semester.

“Obviously, we understand this concern. For reading week to be possible here, it would mean that school would have to start either a few days earlier or end a few days later. But obviously what we are proposing for the university to implement is a few days earlier.”

Fernanda Damiani, St. Thomas University Students’ Union president, said a reading week for STU has not yet been discussed.

“Since UNB has made the decision, we’re gonna look into it, consult with students, bring it up to the university and see if it’s possible.”

Sam Titus, vice-president education at St. Thomas said there’s definitely a possibility for STU to have a fall reading week as well. However, he said STUSU can’t promise anything yet because they are dealing with other issues.

“The university senate is quite bogged down with changing the time slots. They’re looking to change what times classes can take place at. They’re currently stuck with that.”

Although there is no concrete plan yet for the student union to get STU a fall reading week, STUSU would adopt a similar strategy to that of UNBSU when trying to get it approved.

“We’d look to do some kind of student-wide referendum to make sure that everyone wants this, although I can’t see that failing … It would go through senate and then get approved at the board of governors,” said Titus.

He said he can’t imagine the university having any significant resistance to it.

“It’s not that it’s been shut down recently, it’s just not on anybody’s radar right now.”

The idea of a fall reading week occurred to Bempah while running for office during winter semester of 2016.

“I was just speaking to people to find out what they wanted from the new student union. They mentioned there were no sufficient breaks in the [fall] semester for them to catch up with studies.”

Bempah thought this project would allow students to catch up with their studies and, in return, benefit their mental health.

“That’s how it all started.”

He said he’s amazed how fast the process has gone by. To him, this shows the university is not deaf to students’ opinions.

“We [UNBSU] started the process in the summer: Drafting the proposal, reaching out to deans, vice-president academics and university administrators as well as many student unions across Canada, including University of Toronto, Mount Allison, Dalhousie to find out how they were able to get their reading week. Together we put a proposal and submitted it to the university’s administration.”

Students were polled in a plebiscite and the turnout was massive.

“It was one of the highest turnouts we’ve ever had in any student election. Ninety-seven per cent of students that voted, voted in favour of a fall reading week here at the university.”

This gave UNBSU a stronger case to present to the university’s administration.

“The university’s administration has approved a proposal for fall reading week for a three year pilot program to begin in the fall of 2018 and we’re truly excited about that.”

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