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Pending final approval, UH set to gain 3-day fall break

By splitting up the fall semester with a three day break, the Student Government Association is aiming to alleviate the strain placed on students’ mental health from having too many consecutive days of class. | Ram Armendariz/The Cougar

In an effort to improve academic performance and ease mental strain on students, legislation to create a three-day fall break in October — breaking up that semester’s 69 consecutive class days — was passed by the University of Houston’s Student Government Association on Feb. 15.

According to the resolution, UH’s fall semester contains 14 weeks between breaks, while the spring semester has around 9 weeks. The proposed solution would designate the first Monday and Tuesday of October as University holidays.

“This rearrangement of the fall break hopefully will increase student mental health by decreasing stress, even out the spring and fall schedules, and give freshmen and first year transfers the proper time to adjust to college,” said SGA’s Director of Research, Dean Suchy. “All the while, the University still keeps its place having the most days in class compared to other Texas universities.”

If the academic calendar committee approves the change, students will have a Monday and Tuesday off from class during fall semesters, which have one less holiday and one extra class day than spring semesters. To compensate for the added holidays, either Labor Day or a reading day in early December will be converted to a class day, Suchy said.

“Fall semester is often an adjustment period for many students, so implementing a student holiday may offer an additional opportunity for students to engage in self-care and refueling to finish out the rest of the semester,” said Norma Ngo, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services.

Student stress

To investigate the potential impact a fall break could have on UH students, Suchy researched a similar initiative established at Brock University in Ontario, Canada.

Researchers at Brock surveyed 565 students and found that 83 percent agreed that the break helped reduce their school-related stress.

Suchy also consulted data from the American College Health Association’s yearly survey, the National College Health Assessment. The ACHA’s statistics are drawn from a sample of 95,761 students at 137 different postsecondary institutions in the United States.

According to the survey, 85 percent of students felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at any time in the 12 months before being surveyed. Eighty-two percent of students felt exhausted for reasons beside physical activity, 58 percent felt overwhelming anxiety and 37 percent felt too depressed to function at any time during the last 12 months.

“I prefer a lot of breaks. It’s just a time to catch up and recuperate from everything that you’ve had to do in the weeks before, so I wouldn’t mind the idea,” said civil engineering senior Sujata Gautam. “I do feel (a fall break) would help people de-stress, and I feel it would make people productive.”

Students in the survey also reported stress and anxiety as the top factors that negatively impacted academic performance. Thirty-two percent and 23 percent, respectively, of students experienced those affects within the last 12 months.

Ngo said CAPS usually sees a rise in appointments around the time SGA representatives proposed adding a student holiday.

“Student attendance, both in unique students accessing appointments and number of appointments in the beginning of October, is similar to the beginning of March,” Ngo said. “This makes sense as these two time periods correspond to roughly the same point in the academic calendar, roughly six to eight weeks into the semester and corresponding with mid-term exams.”

Suchy and SGA President Shane Smith presented the initiative to Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Paula Myrick Short, and to Vice Provost for Academic Programs Bruce Jones, who manages the creation of the academic calendar.

Since the academic calendars are already planned for 2017, Smith hopes to see the new break in place by fall 2018.

“Students have shown a lot of excitement and appreciation to SGA for creating and pursuing this project,” Smith said. “That demonstrates that there is strong support.”

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  • I am for the added break, but I hope SGA and the Administration do not make Labor Day a class day. A day in December is better for finals and end of the semester assignments. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

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