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                                                                                                                                                                                                            NEWS SERVICES
210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


Not for Publication

August 16, 2002 -- No. 427

UNC outlines media access for summer reading program

Monday, Aug. 19, 2002, 1-3 p.m.
Bingham, Dey halls, UNC campus

As part of its annual summer reading program, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asks all new students – about 3,500 freshmen and 800 transfers – to read a book and come prepared to participate in small group discussions led by trained faculty and staff the day before fall semester classes begin.

This year’s program will be held across campus Monday (Aug. 19) from 1-3 p.m. About 180 faculty and staff volunteers will lead the discussion groups. The sessions will focus on this year’s book, "Approaching the Qur’an," written by Haverford College Professor Michael Sells and selected by a committee of UNC faculty, students and staff. Carolina’s reading program is among activities aimed at making the orientation period before classes begin more meaningfully by reinforcing learning and the university’s academic purpose, UNC officials say. The university wants freshmen to arrive on campus with the expectation that they will think and discuss different points of view throughout their time at Carolina.

Media access and coverage details

· The university is committed to protecting the privacy of the participating students and their educational experiences with each other and the discussion leaders. The university asks media representatives to be respectful of that commitment to the new incoming students.

· Media representatives may observe from designated areas in any of four discussion sessions that will be open. All other discussion sessions are closed to non-participants.

Open sessions are in:

-- 302 Bingham Hall, led by Chancellor James Moeser.

-- 103 Bingham Hall, led by Dr. Carl Ernst, professor of religious studies and a trainer of
this year’s discussion leaders.

          -- 305 Dey Hall, led by Dr. Robert Shelton, provost and executive vice chancellor.

-- 304 Dey Hall, led by Dr. Harry Watson, professor of history, director of the Center for
the Study of the American South and among faculty planning this year’s program.

· Moeser, Ernst, Shelton and Watson will be available for interviews after their sessions conclude. Students leaving those sessions may also choose to grant interview requests.

Neither cameras -- video and still -- nor tape recorders will be permitted inside the four open discussion sessions, but reporters and photographers are welcome to sit, observe and take notes. The use of cameras and tape recorders will be permitted for interviews with discussion leaders or consenting students after the sessions are over.

· Reporters or photographers planning to attend the open sessions should contact News Services by 11 a.m. Monday by calling 919-962-2091 or sending an e-mail to Media relations staff will provide directions and assistance at each site.

· Bingham and Dey halls are located across from each other at the south end of the Polk Place quadrangle adjacent Wilson Library. Broadcasters with heavy equipment and any special parking needs should contact News Services. Limited visitor parking is available at News Services, 210 Pittsboro Street.

Reading program background

The summer reading program, now in its fourth year, was among recommendations from a faculty task force convened by the late Chancellor Michael Hooker in the late 1990s to improve and enhance the intellectual climate at Carolina. Other recommendations also implemented included a first-year seminar program, a first-year initiative living-learning program, an Office of Undergraduate Research and, through the Carolina Center for Public Service, more effectively involving undergraduates in public service activities and integrating such service with learning.

The reading program is a requirement. However, if students or their parents find this year’s book about the Qur’an offensive to their own faith they may choose not to read it. Moeser and other university representatives have stressed this point since late May, when students began receiving information about this year’s program. Moeser says students choosing not to read the book will miss out on an important opportunity to learn about another culture.

As part of this year’s reading program, all new students are asked to complete a one-page writing assignment. Students choosing not to read the book are also being asked to complete that writing assignment and address their decision not to read the selection. Students not reading the book also are asked to attend the small group discussion sessions and, along with all other participants, bring and turn in their one-page responses. Then, if they do not wish to stay, they may speak with the discussion leader who will accommodate their needs.

There is no academic penalty for students who do not read the book, complete the writing assignment, or attend or participate in the discussion groups.

A committee of faculty, students and staff selects the summer reading book each year. Since 1999, the choices have been There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman – all nonfiction. For additional information about the summer reading program, go to

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Contacts: Mike McFarland and the News Services staff, (919) 962-2091