WVU is expanding its “common read” program for incoming students campus-wide and has selected Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson encouraging students to read about the moral implications of the American justice system.

Last year, West Virginia University unveiled its first-ever Common Read, a book that all first-year students read to create a common learning experience among all freshmen.

This coming academic year, WVU is expanding the reading experience beyond just first-year students. The University will encourage all students, faculty, staff and Morgantown community members to participate in the “Campus Read.” This program aims to facilitate discussion, stimulate curiosity and provide a foundation for deeper learning.

Through this year’s book selection, WVU will take on the ethical and moral implications of economic, gender and racial inequity in the American justice system as described by NYU law professor Bryan Stevenson. In his memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson describes his time working with inmates on death row. He has devoted years representing children, domestic abuse survivors, people of color and those with mental illness who had inadequate defense at the time of their trials.

“This is an important book,” said Provost Joyce McConnell, “but it’s more than that. It’s an urgent book, one that exposes racial and other tensions that we are still grappling with in this country. I urge everyone in the campus community to read Just Mercy and join the conversations we will foster around it.”

The book will create a springboard for talking about difficult subjects and will challenge students and community members alike to consider the ways American jurisprudence works – or does not work – for people of different races and those from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

“The book covers a broad and challenging subject,” says Sue Day-Perroots, associate provost of undergraduate education. “It’s ideal for fostering discourse and an exchange of ideas we’d like to see from a Campus Read.”

Just Mercy will be used in a variety of courses and activities so that readers may engage with the subject matter in different ways and delve deeper into the topics covered in the book.

“One of the reasons we selected this book, aside from its critical acclaim, was the current explosion of interest in the American justice system, as exemplified by shows like the Serial Podcast and the Making a Murderer series,” says Susan Jennings Lantz, chair of the Campus Read Committee and WVU teaching assistant professor of marketing. “The surge in popularity of this genre, coupled with the work already happening at WVU, made this book a natural choice.”

The book has garnered interest from WVU’s Innocence Project, the Center for Black Culture and Research, and the Philosophy Club, as well as many other organizations and departments.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to read the book by August 2016. You can learn more about the upcoming Campus Read online, and can follow the conversation on Twitter by using the #WVUReads hashtag.


CONTACT: Adrianne Wyatt / Undergraduate Education

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