Late Reading Week: Worst. Idea. Ever.

If I was writing this article at this exact moment last year, I would be writing from the perspective of a vibrant and refreshed woman who has just returned to school after a well-earned week off. Instead, dear readers, I write to you in a coffee-induced, anxiety-ridden state. This year, like all of you, I was denied my precious Thanksgiving-timed reading week in favour of a week off THREE weeks later than usual. Western students, we have suffered. Oh, how we have suffered. 

So far, I’ve experienced many professors ask: “How are you guys doing?” which has garnered mixed reactions. Some students literally use their fingers to pry open their eyes, too focused on staying awake to develop any form of coherent response. Others violently snatch up their extra-large, triple espresso shot coffee, take a hearty guzzle and shoot up their hand, only to reply “I can’t actually tell if I’m even awake right now. I’m either sleeping or dying.”

The message is clear: a later reading week has sent students into a vortex of anxiety, stress, exhaustion and straight-up fear. Midterm season hit hard, and it’s sticking around for the long-haul without a reading week to break it up. So, students face week after week of assignments and midterms without an end in sight—until November, that is. School resumes November 12th, with only about a month remaining until finals. The result is professors ensuring that their midterms and assignments are due prior to the break, in order to not get too close to finals. This is a kind intention, but with horrific results. Students are now trying desperately to juggle a nasty, unrelenting wave of schoolwork, lectures, assignments, midterms, readings and more, without a moment to catch their breath, let alone catch up on anything that’s slipped through the cracks. 

In the past, students had the option of focusing exclusively on midterms and assignments because they knew that some schoolwork could be delayed until reading week without serious consequences. Now, if a student falls behind, they don’t have the safety of a reading week to catch up for their next midterm or assignment, because it arrives before reading week gets here! It’s nearly impossible to keep up without sacrificing performance in one course or another. 

This is just unhealthy. Students aren’t getting enough sleep, eating right or getting enough activity because they’re cooped up in the library at all hours of the day, every day. They are suffering from intense levels of stress because there are so many deliverables demanded of them in a short time frame without the reprieve we’ve become accustomed to. Next year, I hope that administration returns reading week to its former, necessary, time slot. 

Western students, we are so close. One more week, and you survived the first semester from hell. Here’s to (hopefully) never having to experience this type of madness again. 

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