CUSU Council backs reading week campaign

Jenny Steinitz and Colm Murphy 19 January 2015

CUSU have tonight voted to back the new campaign for a reading week. 

At the first CUSU Council meeting of term, those present voted to support the campaign for nine-week terms, and publicise the ‘No More Week 5 Blues’ campaign.

The campaign, started last week by members of Cambridge Defend Education, argues that a reading week should be added to the existing term. The suggested break would take place just after Week 4.

Reading week is a well-established tradition at many other universities and there is currently a parallel campaign being undertaken by the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU). CUSU Council predicts that it will be well-received among Cambridge students too, especially in light of the National Student Survey’s findings last week that 62 per cent of Cambridge students who responded felt under "unnecessary pressure."

CUSU President Helen Hoogewerf McComb argued to the Council that "this institution should not [merely] be rewarding the ability to work without sleep", and that a reading week would encourage the focus to be more on quality of work.

However, some members of the Council argued that further research needed to be done before undertaking a campaign for such comprehensive change.

Churchill JCR President Freddie Downing commented:  “There are real problems related to mental health in Cambridge and, thankfully, we're more aware about this issue than ever before. As an institution Cambridge University does not do as much as it could to ensure the welfare of those who are particularly vulnerable."

In spite of this, he added: "I can’t see how termly reading weeks is the solution. My experience is that most people do find a balance, although it can get hectic at times. A reading week is unnecessary in that respect. Moreover, 'Week Five blues' does not legitimise depression or other mental health problems. 

"We need to discriminate between the majority who are just a bit fatigued mid-term because of the tough work schedule and who just need a pick-me-up and those whose problems are more serious and need real help.”

Other CUSU initiatives announced at the meeting include the upcoming Mental Health Week, the CUSU Shadowing Scheme and a commitment to research the different funding levels and patterns of the various JCRs and MCRs.


To read more, see 'Ditching our work won't get us what we want'