October 23 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 30  

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Trent "suicide week" only of its kind in Ontario

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Students at Trent University do not have classes this week; students at every other university in Ontario do. Western students, do you feel jealous?

The fact that Trent has two reading weeks, one in the fall and one in the winter, has sparked speculation as to the reason for the extra week off. The result: the October reading week has been known as "Suicide Week" for quite some time. The legend is that since Trent supposedly has such a high suicide rate, the extra break was needed to take the pressure off students. Although the rumour is well known among students, faculty and staff are not as likely to have heard it.

"I've never heard of it before," said Roma Harris, vice provost and registrar at Western, when asked about the "Suicide Week" rumour.

Meri Kim Oliver, senior director of student affairs at Trent, has heard about the rumour. "There is no truth to the rumour that Trent has a higher suicide rate," she said.

"The origin of [the fall week off] dates back to Trent's inception - it is one of the few parallels we still have to Oxford [University]," Oliver explained, adding this breaks the school year into four equal sections, six weeks in length.

The "Suicide Week" rumour has been circulating for quite some time, Oliver said. She could not pin down exactly how long it has been around, but said it has been circulating for "at least a decade or more."

Although she said she did not know how the rumour began, Oliver speculated it has something to do with the fact all other Ontario universities do not have the time off in October.

There have been no official efforts by Trent to debunk the rumour, Oliver explained. "The more we try to debunk it the more it lives on."

When asked why Western does not have two reading weeks, Harris explained there is no time to fit it into the school year.

"We take to the Senate a calendar every year [which balances] academic days, winter exam days, final exam days and study days," Harris explained, adding it is tricky enough to balance these out. The reason for Western's sole reading week falling in the second term is the perception a break is needed more during that time.

When asked about the "Suicide Week" rumour, many students confirmed they had heard of it.

"We have higher averages at Western so maybe we know how to deal with stress," said Melissa Dennie, a second-year visual arts student, adding perhaps Trent students suffered from time management problems which leads to the need for a suicide week.




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