Senate OKs new fall break

On Friday, Senate passed a motion to include Fall Study Days at the end of October, starting in the 2013-14 academic year. These break days will take place on the last Thursday and Friday of October.

This approach has been used at other universities. Supporters say the introduction of a fall study break will alleviate the pressure associated with course work and improve the overall mental health of the undergraduate student population.

Student senator Caitlin Harvey said a break has been something Western students have been asking for since 2003.

“We believe the addition of a two-day reprieve from classes will help students at a critical period in the academic year and demonstrates Western’s commitment to supporting mental health,” she said.

John Doerksen, vice-provost (academic programs and students), said the students have advocated for a fall study break for years, and that “it’s great to see the campus community coming together to make it happen.

“The Fall Study Days provide students with a block of time to begin end-of-term projects and essays, to catch up on other course work or simply to catch their breath,” he said. “I’m hopeful the break will help mitigate some of the anxiety students may feel as important course deadlines approach.”

Doerksen added one of the main considerations leading to the Fall Study Days proposal was the increased anxiety many students experience as the term progresses. Also, Western has moved to offering many more half than full courses, so the need for a study break for fall-term half courses became more pressing.

Next year, it is necessary to change the structure of the academic year to accommodate the two-day break and still maintain the 62 lecture days for the fall term, as mandated by Senate. Currently, two study days scheduled in December will be reduced to one (Dec. 7), and the exam period will be shifted to Dec 8-19, with the winter holiday break starting Dec. 20.

In other action:

  • King’s University College will introduce a major in Middle East Studies next September, with the core studies dimension of the module based on history, philosophy and religious studies and language. The major fulfills the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary and internationalization in teaching and research and is parallel to the major and minor modules in Jewish Studies. It will be jointly administered by the History Department on main campus and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at King’s.
  • The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry is dissolving the Department of the History of Medicine, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Paul Potter, who held the Hannah Chair of History of Medicine since its establishment in 1999, retired in 2009. He was the only faculty member remaining in the department. While the department will close, the Hannah chair will continue and the new holder will continue to deliver the history of medicine education to medical students as well as carry out scholarly work. The chair has a joint appointment between the Department of History, Faculty of Social Science and Department of Surgery.