Strike in motion: Concordia students share their thoughts

Students share their opinions on the strike for a reading week in the fall semester

As of Oct. 2, 13 member associations (MAs) within the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) have passed a mandate to strike from Oct. 3 – 7 for a fall reading week. The growing awareness of the reading week strike has spread across Concordia, resulting in some students having strong thoughts on the subject.

The Concordian interviewed students across both Sir George Williams and Loyola campuses to get their opinions regarding the upcoming reading week strike: 

Concordia students Amélie (left) and Lennie (right) at the Loyola campus. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ The Concordian

Amélie (left) and Lennie (right) 

“I think it should happen because we have one in the winter, and other schools have them, so I think it only makes sense to have the whole week off to catch up on studies and have time for midterms,” said Lennie.

“I think it is a good idea because it’s important to have time to catch up on school, but it’s important to have time for other stuff than school like leisure, family or anything else in your life. I feel like when you’re in school you have less time for that,” said Amélie.

Concordia students Luca Quol (left) and Sofia Pofizkus (right) at the Loyola campus. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ The Concordian

Luca Quol (left) and Sofia Pofizkus (right)

“I honestly just learned about it yesterday. I am in support of it. I think it’s kind of ridiculous that we don’t have a reading week, it seems like every other university in Canada does,” said Quele.

“I think it’s a good idea, honestly, since everyone else has one. We also need a break in the fall, not just the winter,” said Pofizkus.

Portrait of Concordia student Emma Megelas at the Loyola campus. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ The Concordian

Emma Megelas

“I think that it’s beneficial for students to do the strike and the reading week. Not only will it give us more time to study and be prepared, it will help to spread out our schedule so that you’re not crammed with other exams you have to do. You also won’t feel so stressed with work or getting a good grade, so you can be feeling a lot more confident with what you got,” said Megelas.

Concordia students Luca Safar (right) and Exael Cormarie (left) at the Loyola campus. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ The Concordian

Luca Safar (right) and Exael Cormarie (left)

“I think it’s fair enough, you know what I mean? Reading weeks are important and they said that they would give one,” said Safar.

“I think it’s interesting and motivating to see everybody wanting to do this. I am an international student, so I don’t really know what a reading week is, but I do like the idea of having extra time to relax. We don’t seem to have that many breaks already throughout the term,” Exael said.

Portrait of Concordia student Mohammad Abdullah at Sir George Williams Campus. ANTONY FALCONE/ The Concordian

Mohammad Abdullah

“No, I am not against it. I wasn’t sure about the reading week strike but now that I heard about it,  I’m sure that students should get the time to participate. They can get their homework done. It’s good to have a strike. I’ll probably catch up with my homework, my labs, assignments, and get ready for midterms,” Abdullah said.

Concordia students Francisco Ceballos (left) and Cesar Delossantos (right) at Sir George Williams Campus. ANTONY FALCONE/ The Concordian

Francisco Ceballos (left) and Cesar Delossantos (right)

“I think it should happen because other schools have a reading week in the fall term. I’m gonna need to study and catch up on my other classes,” said Delossantos, a civil engineering student.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for students so they can catch up. Some students might have fallen behind on classes so it also gives them the opportunity to catch up. It has also been really crazy since we’ve been back in school. It’ll be great for everyone to relax, not stress out and settle down a little bit to use that time to catch up with notes and things like that,” said Ceballos, who is currently pursuing a degree in civil engineering.


BREAKING NEWS: Concordia approves fall reading week

The week-long break will be implemented in fall term of 2023

The newly-approved fall reading week break is scheduled to happen each year in the second week of October, during the same week as the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Isaiah Joyner, student senator and general coordinator of the Concordia Student Union (CSU).

The two-year delay to implement the break is due to the adjustments that will need to be made to the fall academic semester schedule. As a result of the break, the fall term will be shortened to a 12-week academic term, instead of the current 13-week academic term.

This change will mean the winter and fall semesters will both have a week-long break, and an equal amount of academic weeks.

Passed with overwhelming support by senate members on March 19, Joyner explained the initiative took three years of student-led work, calling it a ‘generational’ project.

Former Advocacy and Academic Coordinator Sarah Mazhero presented the motion to implement fall reading week during her mandate as senator in 2018-2019. In 2019, a majority 86.6 per cent of students voted in favour of the CSU referendum question, which proposed enacting the week-long break.

Joyner said the success of the initiative was not possible without the support from students, stating, “Students voted overwhelmingly in support, which is what supplied pressure to make this happen.”

Following the voting results and Mazhero’s initiative in the senate, an ad hoc committee was created to carry out the proposition. Joyner, who was a member in the committee, said they “continued to work with the administration to make this a reality.”

Initially, second-year Journalism student Maria Bouabdo did not support the fall break in the referendum, because it was unclear about what the new semester with the break would look like. “The [referendum] question didn’t say whether the semester would go longer or shorter because of the break,” said Bouabdo.

Now that it has been approved, Bouabdo says she supports the initiative, explaining “We need a break during the middle of the semester when everything’s intense during midterms and [with] assignments.”

Her only concern was what having a shorter academic semester would mean for students — whether the material would be condensed and students would have more work, or whether the extra weeks’ worth of course plans would be cancelled altogether.

These are questions that will be presented and worked on in the upcoming months. Going forward, Joyner explained that “Administration would work with staff and faculty to begin seeing how to make the shift, but students will remain involved in the process in some way.”


Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union (CSU)


Does Concordia need a fall reading week?

Time off during the fall semester could help students with their workload and mental health

The midterm break has come and gone. Some of us had a rather productive week, others feel rested, and some are now less motivated to go to class, having tasted the joy of a break. While we may have varying opinions about the purpose of reading week, it seems odd that it only happens in one of two semesters. Where is the fall semester’s reading week?

Although it doesn’t exist at Concordia, some university students in Montreal do have a fall break. For example, a few faculties at the Université de Montréal offer students a chance in the fall to catch up on their homework and relax. So why aren’t Concordia students given this opportunity?

It is true that implementing an additional break in the academic calendar would come with potential downsides. Those school days would not just disappear; the semester would have to start earlier or finish later in order to maintain its current 13 weeks. Starting before Labour Day could be a problem though, because some students would have to pay an extra month of rent if the semester started at the end of August instead of the beginning of September.

Extending the semester in December isn’t ideal either. This would shorten the holiday break, which is an important time to spend with family and on ourselves. Many students have family outside of Montreal, making it hard enough already for them to see their loved ones during the school year.

Another solution would be to shorten the examination period, potentially by having more exams on the weekend. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. The longer examination period schedules exams on consecutive days for some students anyway.

Although these solutions all have their costs, I think they are worth it if a break could help students’ mental health. Research conducted at McMaster University in Ontario and published in 2017 hinted at this benefit.

The study tested the saliva of participants from two universities—one with a reading week and one without—to determine stress levels. Participants also filled out a questionnaire, which indicated that the numbers of stressors in a student’s life after the reading week diminished. An analysis of the hormones in participants’ saliva also indicated higher levels of stress in the students who didn’t have a reading week.

However, the group of participants who had a reading week scored higher on the Perceived Stress Scale, a psychological instrument used to measure stress, after their break. This means they were more stressed than before the break. Although this might seem to contradict the benefits of having a reading week, it’s important to note that the type of stress was different. According to the study, before the break, the highest reported stressors were “worried about the future,” “sitting through a boring class’’ and ‘’having too little sleep.” After the break, students were more concerned about deadlines, projects and a difficult upcoming week.

The study does not provide information about the group that did not have a reading week. Nonetheless, most of these findings seem to indicate that students without a reading week do experience more stress than the other group, since their saliva was tested and indicated higher stress levels. Mental health aside, a reading week is also a great opportunity to catch up on your homework. If you are like me and switched classes or registered for courses at the last minute, you might have welcomed that break with open arms, or wish you’d had one in the fall.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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