the lead up
In November, the USC and Western Student Senators (WSS) started to hear from students about concerns regarding the length of this year’s Winter Break. Changes to the Academic Calendar need to be approved by the University Senate. While the USC is present at Senate meetings, we do not have voting rights; however, WSS do. In order to collect student feedback to present to the Senate, the USC and WSS created a survey, which saw over 14,500 submissions to date.
The USC was glad to be able to engage with and hear from so many students about this priority. In the survey, we heard that:
- For a variety of reasons including the return to in-person learning and the violence our campus experienced in September, this has been a uniquely challenging semester for student mental health
- There are affordability concerns about booking travel so close to New Year’s
There were many other concerns brought forward, but these were two consistent themes in the student feedback we received.
After receiving this feedback, the USC and WSS got to work. A Student Senator moved the motion for the academic calendar to be amended to allow for an extension to this year’s Winter Break. Your advocates on the USC, VP University Affairs Ziyana Kotadia and President Zamir Fakirani, have elevated the student feedback we have received both on the Senate floor and in conversations with decision-makers at the university.
The USC Executive has been following up with administrators and Western Student Senators. After this motion was brought forward to Senate, it was reviewed by a Senate committee, SCAPA, and the motion has not moved forward to the next Senate meeting.
This means the university is no longer considering an extension of this year’s Winter Break and undergraduate students should plan for a January 3rd return to classes.
In the University Senate’s most recent meeting agenda, they provided the following comment:
“Although the Motion was not supported, SCAPA recognized that both the University Student Council and individual student senators had received numerous communications from students indicating that they would support a delayed January 2022 start to classes.
SCAPA also recognized that supporting our student, faculty and staff mental health is of importance to the well-being of our campus community. SCAPA committed to reviewing the Structure of the Academic Year policy at a future meeting to provide discretion for the scheduling of sessional dates when a similar situation arises based on the calendar. SCAPA also recognized that anyone experiencing mental health distress should consult Western’s many Health and Wellness services available on campus.”
the next step
Your voices had a huge impact – they sparked an important conversation for the university community about health, affordability, and well-being. Though this year’s Winter Break will not be extended, the USC is working with the university to create long-term changes to the academic calendar that will ensure future Winter Breaks can be longer. The USC will also be advocating for improved mental health supports for students this year, recognizing that students have been navigating unique hardships throughout the semester.
the thank you
We want to sincerely thank all of you for raising your concerns and sharing your voices. We were able to collaborate with Western Student Senators and bring your voices to the University Senate, and your feedback will lead to tangible changes for future years.
We know this has been a tough semester for all of us, and we encourage you to utilize the support services available to you. A complied list can be found here:
the contact information
If you have any more feedback, ideas, concerns, or questions, you can always reach out to the USC.