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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Not for publication

Aug. 22, 2003 – No. 420

UNC outlines media access for summer reading program discussion groups

Monday, Aug. 25, 2002, 1-3 p.m.
Bingham, Dey halls, UNC campus

As part of its summer reading program, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asks all new students -- 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. The non-credit assignment, an academic icebreaker, is voluntary.

This year's program will be held Monday (Aug. 25) from 1-3 p.m. Some 172 faculty and staff volunteers will lead discussion sessions focusing on "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," by Barbara Ehrenreich and selected by a committee of faculty, students and staff. Numerous U.S. colleges and universities are using or have used Ehrenreich’s book, a national best seller, in summer reading programs. Among them are three N.C. campuses: Appalachian State, UNC-Asheville and Davidson.

UNC’s program focuses on discussion and dialogue, not the book itself, UNC officials say. "Our responsibility to students is to provide an atmosphere in which they can deepen their sense of themselves and the complex, often contradictory, world around them," Chancellor James Moeser says. "That is what the Summer Reading Program is designed to do. We want to create an intellectual climate in which students themselves can come to their own conclusions and turn information into insight."

Media access

Carolina remains committed to protecting the privacy of participating students and their educational experiences with each other and discussion leaders. The university asks media representatives to respect that commitment to the new incoming students.

· Media representatives may observe from designated areas in any of three open discussion sessions. Other discussion groups will be closed. Open sessions will be in:

-- 301 Bingham Hall, led by Chancellor James Moeser and Student Body President Matt


-- 108 Bingham Hall, led by Dr. Patrick Conway, professor of economics whose classes have included a first-year seminar focusing on the economic problems facing North Carolina.

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

Moeser, Conway and Shelton likely will be available for interviews after sessions end. Students leaving those sessions may choose to grant interview requests.

· Neither video or still cameras nor tape recorders will be permitted inside the three open discussion sessions. Reporters and photographers are welcome to sit, observe and take notes and then use cameras and tape recorders for interviews with discussion leaders or consenting students after the sessions conclude.

News Services staff will provide assistance at each open session 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 Karen Moon at News Services, 962-2091. Limited visitor parking is available at News Services, 210 Pittsboro Street.

Additional university, reading program background

The summer reading program, now in its fifth year, was among recommendations from a faculty task force convened by the late Chancellor Michael Hooker in the late 1990s to enhance the intellectual climate at Carolina. Other major recommendations implemented included a first-year seminar program, in which new students tackle academic subjects in depth for an entire semester with senior faculty, and an Office of Undergraduate Research.

A committee of faculty, students and staff selects the summer reading book. Since 1999, the choices have been There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman and "Approaching the Qur’an" by Michael Sells -- all nonfiction. For more about the summer reading program, go to

In mid-July, Chancellor Moeser and UNC officials hosted a small delegation of North Carolina legislators concerned about this year’s book selection. University officials have called that hour-long dialogue productive, as was a similar meeting Aug. 15 with Michael McKnight, who leads a student group, the Committee for a Better Carolina, which expressed concerns about the book earlier this summer. For more of Moeser’s thoughts on the program and the role of a public university, go to his recent opinion-editorial column at In the piece, Moeser discusses the university’s responsibility to remain a vibrant intellectual community in which all viewpoints can be comfortably expressed and heard in an atmosphere of respect.

Moeser also has created a Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace to advise the chancellor on action steps to improve the workplace at Carolina. The task force, co-chaired by the chancellor and Tommy Griffin, who leads the Employee Forum, began meeting earlier this week and aims to develop its recommendations by the end of October. Moeser formed the panel after discussions with Griffin, Faculty Chair Judith Wegner and Student Body President Matt Tepper. The summer reading selection, which examines the nation’s income gap, helped prompt those discussions at a time when UNC and other state agencies have faced budget problems. UNC’s lowest-paid permanent full-time employees make $17,692, or about $8.50 an hour.

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