During their December 2 meeting, the McGill Senate approved a delayed start for the Winter 2021 semester. The term will now begin on January 7, extending the break between semesters from 12 to 15 days. According to an email from Provost Christopher Manfredi, the delay is meant to “reflect the exceptional demands of the pandemic.”
In response to the Senate’s approval, Arts Senator Darshan Daryanani noted that “While students and faculty can ‘enjoy’ an extra 3 days of break in the midsts of a pandemic and a red zone, such a decision has, once again, piggy-backed on the labour of students who are marginalized at this institution’s highest academic governing body.”
To compensate for the three-day delay, classes are now scheduled to end on April 16, and the final exam period is pushed back and shortened by a day, now lasting from April 19 to April 30.
According to the memorandum, three days is the longest extension possible given the required 13-week academic term, and the desire to not extend the semester into May. With the delay, the Add/Drop deadline is now January 22, and the Withdrawal with Refund deadline is now January 29. No other academic dates have changed, and the winter reading week is still March 1 to March 5.
Due to program constraints, the delay in the semester does not apply to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences or the Faculty of Dentistry, which will both start classes on January 4 as previously planned.
The decision to delay the start of the Winter 2021 semester comes after a petition signed by over 9,000 members of the McGill community demanded an extended winter holiday, citing a need for time to properly quarantine, a necessary break for faculty, and mental health concerns. Arts Senator Mary-Lynne Loftus noted that “Many members of the McGill community are feeling mental, physical and emotional exhaustion from this semester and it is clearly very needed.”
Echoing Loftus, Management Senator Krishna Uttamchandani believes that “with thousands of students expressing support of an extended winter break, we can view the passing of this motion to be a win from a student perspective.”
However, Senator Daryanani did point out his dissatisfaction with the timeline involved in this process, noting “the motion for the extension of Winter Break was initially introduced through an emergency motion for November 18th’s Senate meeting, a week after Concordia announced their winter break, it was deferred to the following senate meeting despite being a time-sensitive issue, not just for students when planning for a ‘break’, but professors alike to plan for courses.”
Concordia University has extended its holiday break by one week, starting the Winter 2021 semester on January 13, along with the University of Toronto, which will start classes on January 11.
While the 3-day delay is not as significant as the aforementioned schools’, Senator Uttamchandani believes that “A further extension of the winter break may have resulted in a shorter reading break period, or worse a slightly longer semester which forces students to pay an extra month’s rent for just a few days. I think we’ve found a middle ground that keeps both students and administrators happy, given the implications.”