The reading discussion is a voluntary Week of Welcome event that aims to expose freshmen and transfer students to academic life at UNC.
“It allows students to be introduced to the academic expectations of Carolina,” said Alison Spannaus, associate director of the New Student and Carolina Parent Program. “It’s about being an active learning member of the community here at Carolina.”
Attendance at the discussions has fluctuated during the 16 years of the program. It peaked in the early 2000s when the program was mandatory, but in 2002, a controversial book choice caused attendance to plunge. The chosen book, Michael Sells’ “Approaching the Qur’an,” d rew criticism in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
“It was a book trying to help Americans understand the Islamic religion,” said John McGowan, professor of English and comparative literature. “But there was a huge outcry in the state of North Carolina about how we were indoctrinating people by making them read a book about the Qur’an.”
A lawsuit was filed against the school and the program was changed from mandatory to voluntary attendance.
“We have to count on the students being interested enough to want to have the experience,” McGowan said.
In an attempt to raise attendance rates, the Summer Reading Program has collaborated with Duke University, First-Year Seminars Program and the Department of Housing and Residential Education.
Resident advisors are expected to notify their residents about the session and co-facilitate it with faculty members.