Letter: Using teaching days as an excuse for not having a fall reading break is a weak argument

For an institution that bombards us with slogans like “Tuum Est: It Is Yours” and constantly emphasizes its world-class status, it seems like instituting a fall reading break would be easy for UBC. After all, most other Canadian universities have them, and UBC prides itself on being among the best of these. Unfortunately, a recent article in The Ubyssey confirms that the push for a fall break is moving at a snail’s pace, trapped within a bureaucracy that seems out-of-touch with students, faculty and their concerns.

The claim made by student senator Kevin Doering that UBC’s primary concern is “that students should be receiving good value for their tuition” is ridiculous. If UBC is so concerned with student finances, why are they raising tuition yet again, with consultation that students criticized as inadequate?

If the university is dedicated to ensuring students extract the maximum number of teachable hours possible proportionate to the money we pay, why not just reduce course fees or forgo tuition increases? This seems like a half-hearted excuse rather than a reflection of any genuine concern on the part of Senate.

Additionally, can the value we get out of our degrees really be measured only in teaching hours?

By the middle of the semester, myself and many students I know are too mentally exhausted to truly benefit from class time. Despite it being considered standard, taking five courses means doing a lot of hard work. Struggling to stay on top of our readings and assignments means many of us neglect to eat well, exercise or get enough sleep — ironically the very things that help to maintain mental health. When students approach academic burnout like this, the value of their degree could be better enhanced by a few extra days to decompress and catch up on missed work than by the pressure to keep attending classes we aren’t prepared for.

Given the hugely detrimental effects of stress on university students as well as the often-insufficient access to mental health services on campus — not coincidentally around times when a fall break might land — it is in everyone’s best interest for UBC to institute a fall reading break. Adding “at least one day ... in another year or two years” is simply not enough, and there is a very real risk that it will be too little, too late.

How long before UBC has a “suicide epidemic” similar to what Queen’s experienced starting in 2010?

If UBC wants to continue branding itself as a challenging, competitive university, it must accept that its hardworking and frequently overstressed students deserve a fall break. Although Senate defends its lethargic process with excuses about logistics and ensuring the best “value” for students, these defenses are flimsy.

It has been long enough — UBC needs to figure out a solution to this urgent problem, and fast.