The Collegian
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Committee chooses title for next year's One Book program

For next year's campus-wide read, the One Book, One Campus committee has chosen "The Laramie Project," a play about a hate crime murder in 1998, written by Moises Kaufman.

In its ninth year at University of Richmond, One Book, One Campus is a project that encourages students, faculty and staff to read and discuss a book about social issues.

"The Laramie Project," which is about the murder of a gay University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard, was chosen because of current hate-crime issues involving the LGBTQ community and its role in society, said Lucretia McCulley, a member of the selection committee.

McCulley, director of outreach services in Boatwright Memorial Library, said she thought "The Laramie Project" would appeal to everyone because it was a short play that was easy to read and related to subjects across the curriculum.

The committee also felt encouraged to choose the play when it learned that Kaufman would be speaking in February as part of the Jepson Leadership Forum, said committee chairwoman Molly Field, administrative coordinator of the Chaplaincy. The committee also wants to invite Shepard's mother to campus, because it will be the 15th anniversary of her son's death in October, Field said.

The committee received several book suggestions from the Richmond community, including alumni, and read about 10 of those books before ultimately choosing "The Laramie Project," McCulley said.

The One Book idea has been implemented nation-wide at other universities or in cities under names such as "One Book, One College" and "One Book, One Community," she said. The One Book movement began in 1998, when Nancy Pearl, executive director of the Washington Center for the Book in the Seattle Public Library, started "If All Seattle Read the Same Book," according to the Library of Congress website.

In 2005, there were more than 350 One Book projects in all 50 states, according to the website. Although other schools have a One Book program for only incoming or first-year students, Richmond's practice is uncommon because the program is open to all members of the community, Field said.

In the past, McCulley said book discussions had been well attended, with about 30 to 50 people during regular meetings and about 200 people at the authors' lectures, although not everyone had read the book.

The choice of book and area of discussion have drawn different groups of people every year, Field said. This year's book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot, attracted those interested in science, medicine and ethics, she said. The year before, many women and members of sororities were involved in discussions about "Half the Sky," a book co-authored by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

To improve participation in the book reading and discussions this year, Field said she had given free copies of books to all the resident assistants and cultural advisers. She said she wanted to contact other leadership groups such as orientation advisers, as well.

"I think students will be more inclined to do it if they hear it from other students," she said.

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McCulley said it would also be helpful if faculty members promoted the book or used it in their classes.

Several copies of "The Laramie Project" are now available in the library and it has also been loaded onto all of the library's Kindles, which are available for checkout, she said.

Contact reporter Avery Shackelford at avery.shackelford@richmond.edu

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