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UNC and Duke share summer reading book, "Eating Animals," by Jonathan Safran Foer

Many freshmen dorm rooms in Chapel Hill and Durham will have at least one item in common this year — a bright green book.

“Eating Animals,” the non-fiction work by Jonathan Safran Foer, is the first ever shared summer reading selection for freshmen at Duke University and UNC.

“It made sense to us given our proximity,” said Donna Lisker, Duke’s associate dean of undergraduate education and chairwoman of the Duke summer reading program committee.

Lisker said the book could build an intellectual bridge between the two rival schools, especially since Foer will be speaking at both campuses this week.

But both Lisker and Jan Yopp, dean of the summer school and chairwoman of the University’s selection committee, said it is lofty to expect a real connection between the freshmen.

“Eating Animals” is an autobiographical argument for making ethical decisions about consuming meat.

Yopp said the book covers a wide range of subjects that extend past vegetarianism and that it has the potential to spark conversations about how food fits into our culture and how people make decisions.

She added that the main difference between the two programs is that Duke sent the required reading directly to its 1,725 incoming students. UNC’s program is optional and asked all of the estimated 3,990 freshmen to buy the book themselves.

Both campuses will offer small group discussions with fellow freshmen. UNC’s students meet today.

A joint 21-person committee composed of faculty, staff and students from both universities began collaborating last fall.

Yopp said committee members split up a joint list of books during the winter, and reached a final conclusion on the book in February after four meetings.

Freshman Anne Symons said she appreciated that she could talk with her best friend, who will be a freshman at Duke this fall, about the book.

“It’s cool that it establishes a common ground between the students of both schools,” Symons said.

Freshman James Pike said he was completely surprised by the environmental implications of the American meat industry.

“I feel there might be a slight rise in vegetarians on campus this year,” Pike said.

But not all parties are satisfied with the choice. A Virginia-based organization, Animal Agriculture Alliance, sent a letter to Duke and UNC on Friday protesting against the book, citing it as a one-sided argument.

“His actions and history show that Foer isn’t simply the ‘concerned dad’ that he portrays himself to be in the book — he is essentially a radical activist,” wrote Kay Johnson Smith, executive vice president of the organization.

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