Summer books for first year students deal with social issues

As first-year college students enjoy the summer holidays, many are also cracking open books that their institutions tell them to read before their classes begin. Summer reading assignments, known as general books, vary from institution to institution, but also to stimulate discussion about current events as students arrive on campus.

This year, as in the past few years, many organizations are choosing books that touch on issues of social justice – especially racial discrimination. At Siena College in New York, first-year students are required to study Colson Whiteheads Nickel BoysA novel based on the true story of abuse at the Jim Crow-era Florida Dossier School for Boys.

The faculty committee has chosen the book in 2020 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, said Professor Michelle Liptak, a senior first-year seminar professor.

“We are very committed to choosing a text that deals with current issues,” Liptak said. “And so what’s going on, especially about the Black Lives Matter movement, we wanted to pick a book that deals with injustice and race. We’ve narrowed it down to five titles and Nickel Boys There was one of them. “

The 925 members of the newcomer class will discuss the book in their first year seminar and – depending on the professor – either write an essay or take a quiz on the text.

The college plans to bring in forensic anthropologist Erin Kimerle from the University of South Florida to discuss her work at the dossier school and examine the unidentified bodies of missing boys, said Brit Haas, another professor who led the first. – Seminar of the year. The faculty members who teach the book all try to make it relevant to today’s world, he said, although they interact with it in different ways.

“The general thing is that this is the basis of the discussion,” Haas said. “It changes a lot, not just the assignments, but even the conversations we have in class. These are, of course, about issues of racial justice – how far we have come and how far we have to go in balancing racial justice. But all professors work differently on books.”

Students are required to study at Gaucher College in Maryland Immortal life without Henrietta By Rebecca Schultz. LAX was an African American woman whose cancer cells, without her knowledge or permission, became the source of the first human cell line to reproduce indefinitely for use in medical research.

Isabel Moreno-Lopez, an associate provost of undergraduate studies, says summer lessons are the first element of each student’s four-year race, power, and perspective exploration, a key component of Gaucher’s core curriculum. While the college typically chooses a book about social justice for its 300 first-year students to read, this year’s election is unusual in that it goes beyond many disciplines, he said.

“Usually books related to social justice, race and power fall into the humanities section,” Moreno-Lopez said. “But it is a book that can be studied in the natural sciences, because it talks about medicine. At Gaucher, we support the need for this reading throughout the department and this book is ideal for him. “

Moreno-Lopez said the book would trigger a conversation about the ethics of medicine, since LACS cells were used for cancer research without his consent, as well as racism in medicine and medical research. Moreno-Lopez said there could also be a discussion about the imbalance between the number of white and black writers represented in the publishing industry due to the fact that Scullut is white.

All first-year students will participate in a group discussion about the book at the beginning of the fall semester, with the aim of starting a conversation about the book throughout the term. If the students do not participate in the group discussion, Moreno-Lopez said he would look for them to chat one by one about the text. Students need to write an essay for first year seminars and upload it online.

At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, first-year students must read Only Mercy: The Story of Justice and Liberation By Brian Stevenson. The book traces the founding of Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Ala., And the case of one of its first clients: Walter McMillian, a young black man who was wrongly executed for the murder of a young man. He did not kill the white woman.

Just pity It’s a wonderful and timely choice. It’s aligned with our mission and DEI goals and inspires young adults to choose their career path, “said Nancy Enright, director of core university curriculum. “The themes of justice, compassion, overcoming racial prejudice, social justice, community and faith are closely linked to similar themes that are inseparable from the original. The core curriculum at Seton Hall University is a general education approach that encourages students to be thoughtful, caring, communicative and morally responsible leaders and promises service. ”

Said Kelly Shea, an associate professor of English and director of the writing center at Seton Hall Just pity In a row was the choice of reading clear summer for the second year. The book makes it easier for faculty to lead group conversations, he said, and classes can also compare and contrast books and films published in 2019.

Approximately 1,500 first-year students will read the book for Seton Hall’s University Life Course, a one-credit seminar designed to help them adapt to college life and connect with colleagues and faculty members. In addition, Reverend Forrest Prichet, Senior Adviser to the Provost of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is organizing a tour for teachers, students, staff and alumni to visit Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative headquarters in Montgomery.

First-year students at Smith College in Massachusetts must read the college’s own offer: Form and emptiness book By Ruth Ozeki, an alumnus and professor of English language and literature. The novel is an upcoming-era story that focuses on grief and other issues, allowing teachers to lead discussions on consumerism, mental health, family dynamics, workplace stress, selected families, and more.

Dean of the first year class Jane Stangel said Smith chose the book because it resonated with the purpose of the first year experience.

Although Smith does not require students to read summer books, it strongly encourages them. The number of first-year students at the college is about 650, and Stangel estimates that about two-thirds of them will read Ozeki’s books. An obstacle can be the length of the book; At more than 550 pages, it is longer than the previous year’s text and could challenge students, Stangel noted.

“The book is a powerhouse of quality writing,” Stangel said. “Still, we want our students to read books. Over the years we’ve tended to move away from what might seem scary, but the quality and closeness of the writing is so digestible that we think it’s worth the effort. “

Other institutions, including the University of California, Berkeley; Brian Maw College, Pennsylvania; Spellman College, Georgia; And at Binghamton University in New York, students are not required to read a book in the summer, but they recommend choosing a book or books for incoming students.

Binghamton, part of the State University of New York system, recommends that first-year students read Mathematical Weapons of Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy By Cathy O’Neill. Kelly Smith, Assistant Vice President for Student Success, who oversees the university’s general reading experience, said this year’s book was chosen to focus on issues of race and inequality.

“The [book selection] The committee also felt that the book had the advantage of touching on issues of greater bias than other books considered this year, “said Smith.

Smith said Binghamton professors will coordinate discussions in the first week of class with first-year students – numbering more than 3,000. He said the university is encouraging all faculties to include the book in classroom discussions.

Other summer books this year include:

  • Cancer Journal By Audrey Lord, appointed to Moravian University
  • This is what I believe: the personal philosophy of extraordinary men and women, Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gaddyman, Monroe University of Louisiana
  • Clara and the Sun. By Kazuo Ishiguro, employed at New York University
  • Junaluska: Oral History of a Black Appalachian CommunitySusan E. Edited by Kiev, employed at Appalachian State University
  • They call us enemies By George Tekke, employed at Bucknell University
  • Historical Correction Office By Daniel Evans, appointed to St. Michael’s College
  • To dig Appointed by AS King, at SUNY Oswego

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