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  June 11, 2001

Freshmen Reading Assignment
Probes Racism in Science

Incoming freshmen will have plenty to ponder this summer: They have been asked to read Stephen J. Gould's The Mismeasure of Man.

Gould, who teaches geology, biology and the history of science at Harvard, presents an historical study of racism in science.

A copy of the book will be given to all freshmen at summer orientation, along with a list of discussion questions. The students are required to read selected chapters. On Aug. 26, they will get together in small groups with faculty and staff volunteers to discuss the book. A lecture and book-signing by the author will follow.

Veronica Makowsky, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says the book raises some fascinating, difficult and thought-provoking questions that students will face throughout their academic careers and beyond. She says the book was chosen because "we wanted a book that would appeal to scientists as well as students in the social sciences and humanities."

The idea for a summer reading assignment and discussion was an outgrowth of the University's strategic plan. A number of faculty, during discussions of the plan's implementation, proposed that all incoming students read the same book and discuss it with faculty, in an effort to enhance the undergraduate academic experience.

Makowsky says it is important that Husky Week of Welcome (WOW) programs have an academic component. "It gives students an opportunity to meet in small groups and discuss significant issues before classes start."

Questions that students are asked to consider include: What is biological determinism? Why did so many people want to believe the theory of the Bell Curve? What issues does it raise about scientific objectivity? and What questions does the book raise about the ethical use of science?

After orientation, students may have further assignments on the book in their classes, so they are encouraged to read the whole book.

Faculty and staff volunteers are still needed to lead group discussions. Volunteers need to be available on Aug. 26 for about three hours in the afternoon, to meet with their groups and attend the author's talk. Those interested in being a volunteer should call Amy de Flumere, at (860) 486-6121 or send e-mail to:

An optional preparatory workshop for discussion leaders will take place on Aug 22 at 11 a.m. in the Class of '47 room in Homer Babbidge Library.

Sherry Fisher

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