Each year a committee of students, faculty and staff select a book for incoming students to read during the summer months. The Common Reading Experience is an opportunity for the campus to join in the shared exploration of a single book and its themes.
This year’s selection, Picking Cotton, tells a true story of forgiveness, faith and courage. Jennifer Thompson shares her account as a survivor of sexual assault and the healing process as a college student in 1984. Ronald Cotton tells his story of wrongful conviction and imprisonment as an innocent man.
Together, they share an intertwined story about how we shape and interrogate our bias; the fragility of life and compelling nature of our humanity; the power of reconciliation over retribution; and the personal strength to overcome turmoil and find peace. It is a story of magnanimity; it will elicit sometimes searing responses or memories, and call us to question subtle perspectives and differences. We know these are not easy conversations, and we challenged the campus to proceed with a respectful and informed dialogue in a safe and accepting community.
To continue that dialogue and extend the Common Reading Experience, the University is pleased to welcome bestselling authors, Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton, to campus for a public lecture. The lecture will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 8, 2015, in Memorial Coliseum. Due to the larger venue, we are opening the event to the public, as well.
The book and the author’s lecture are the beginning of a year-long dialogue and program series centered around themes in Picking Cotton. Whether you like or dislike the book, the quality discussions that result from this story are at the heart of what it means to be a college student. Classroom topics, conversations in our shared spaces, and the relationships between friends, students and mentors, are part of exploring our understanding of the world around us.
I encourage you to attend the lecture on Thursday and take part in our campus dialogue.