President announces Common Read


In an email sent to the UNI campus on Wednesday, Sept. 19, the annual UNI President’s Diversity Common Read was announced for the fall 2019 semester. This semester’s Common Read will be “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.

According to the UNI Diversity website, “common reads have become increasingly popular on college campuses and are an excellent way to foster understanding of a particular subject, create new learning spaces and develop a culture that is more welcoming of differences.”

The President’s Diversity Common Read is hosted by three units on the UNI campus: the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the Center for Multicultural Education (CME), and Chief Diversity Officer Gwenne Beary. Representatives from all three groups, as well as various UNI faculty, will serve as facilitators for Common Read.

The Common Read process begins with the selection of a text which addresses themes of diversity and inclusion. Past books have included Carol Anderson’s “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,” chosen as the inaugural President’s Diversity Common Read in the fall of 2017, and “Lou Sullivan: Daring to Be a Man Among Men” by Brice D. Smith, the fall 2018 selection.

All members of the campus community then have the opportunity to join small focus groups facilitated by faculty members. These twelve facilitator-led groups will meet weekly for three to five weeks in October and early November. Books will be provided.

The Common Read process has traditionally culminated with a campus visit from the author of the selected text. Both Anderson and Smith visited UNI in January 2018 and November 2018, respectively. This semester, “So You Want to Talk About Race” author Ijeoma Oluo will speak at UNI at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11 in Lang Hall Auditorium.

According to the author’s website, Oluo is “a Seattle-based writer, speaker, and Internet Yeller.” Her writing, which has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, TIME, Elle Magazine and the Guardian, centers on racism, feminism, social justice and mental health concerns.

Published in January 2019, “So You Want to Talk About Race” is a New York Times bestseller. The book features seventeen chapters, each of which is titled with a question. These include “What if I talk about race wrong?,” “Why can’t I touch your hair?” and “I just got called racist, what do I do now?”

The book also includes a discussion guide for book clubs and reading groups, written by Oluo. As she states in the guide’s introduction, this feature is designed to “increase the productivity of group gatherings and reduce possible harm,” and includes both basic guidelines and questions to discuss.

According to the email, interested students and campus community members must sign up by emailing the facilitator of the group they would like to join by 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26.

“We’re looking forward to a Common Read that leads to robust discussion and personal growth,” wrote Beary in the email announcing the Common Read. “Please join us!”