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A Statement from the College Reads! Committee

A statement from The College Reads! committee…

The College Reads! is the College of Charleston’s campus-wide common reading program designed to connect students, faculty, and staff around a single book to promote the idea that liberally educated people read broadly and discuss with one another ideas arising from the books they share. Recent events, not all of which are directly related to Representative Garry Smith’s budgetary threat, have called into question the future viability of The College Reads! program. The committee would like to correct several misrepresentations in statements issued by the College that have appeared in multiple media outlets.

The College Reads! committee has always been large and diverse, and has always included administrators, staff, faculty and students broadly representing the entire campus. For the life of the program, the committee has energetically solicited book recommendations. This practice is not new nor is it in reaction to the controversy over Fun Home. The criteria for selection requires the choice of challenging books that will provoke discussion and invite students to examine new ideas and experiences different from their own.

Our process of selecting a book for next year has been no different. After reviewing and reading hundreds of books, meeting weekly between October and December, inviting readers from outside the committee, and soliciting the experiences of other universities, on December 9th the committee selected The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. Consistent with past practice, the selection was communicated to the provost, a contract with the author was negotiated and executed, and books were ordered. Unlike in previous years, the book has not been announced-- presumably at the direction of the Board of Trustees--and a stop payment was issued leaving in limbo the 4,000 books in our possession. The committee has received no explanation for this action.

The Good Soldiers is an important book written by a Pulitzer prize-winning author. It will invite students to examine the experiences of men on the front-lines of a war, a timely topic of critical relevance to students that are similar in age to the soldiers. The Good Soldiers also offers an opportunity to engage with and to honor College of Charleston students, faculty, staff and alumni who have served in the military. Student veterans will be a central part of planning the year’s programming.

In closing, the committee is just one part of an educational program committed to academic integrity, the value of intellectual inquiry even when it involves controversy or disagreement, and the creation of an environment that is supportive of all who want to learn. We urge all members of the College of Charleston community, including its administration and Board of Trustees, to support these goals unequivocally.

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