On Downplaying Differences: Freshmen to Read Covering
Freshmen entering UNC next fall will
be asked to read Covering: The Hidden
Assault on Our Civil Rights before
they arrive. This year’s selection in the Summer Reading Program concerns sociologist
Erving Goffman’s notion of “covering” —
downplaying stigmatizing identities to assimilate to the cultural mainstream.
The author, Kenji Yoshino, is a Japanese-American gay man who teaches law at Yale
University, specializing in constitutional
law, law and literature, and Japanese law and
society. His book challenges ideas about
minority rights and the sometimes-damag-ing effects of social integration.
“I liked it. I was not expecting to,” said
Peter Coclanis, associate provost for international affairs and chair of the book selection committee. “This book offers an
excellent introduction to what rigorous
critical inquiry is like at the university
level. And the central topics treated —
identity and self-expression — are central
to most 18- and 19-year-olds.” He added,
“This will be a provocative read for them.
It’s not an easy read.”
UNC asks all first-year and incoming
transfer students to read a book in the
summer and participate in small group dis-
cussions led by faculty and staff once they
arrive on campus. The noncredit assign-
ment, an academic icebreaker but not a
lates critical thinking
outside the classroom
encourages new students to engage in
the academic community.
gram focuses on dis-
cussion and dialogue, creating an intellectual climate in which students can come to
their own conclusions and turn information into insight.
A nine-member selection committee of
students, faculty and staff began meeting last
fall to consider books for this year’s reading
Their recommendation of Covering
went to Bobbi Owen, senior associate dean
of the College of Arts and Sciences; and
then to Chancellor James Moeser. Coclanis
said he didn’t think Moeser ever had
vetoed a committee choice.
“It’s a thoughtful, critical analysis that’s
not lurid and doesn’t sensationalize issues,”
Owen said. “If you go to Students Stores
and get the book, you actually are going to
find it in the law section.
“It’s really important that our society
talk about equal treatment for people that
downplay their differences. We had a president in the 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had polio, and there were never
pictures of him published in his wheelchair. That’s a kind of covering.
“I hope that the conversation is not
about sexual orientation — that’s too easy.
Could the conversation be about disability,
racial issues or gender issues? I think if
people start to talk about the ways we
cover, in a variety of settings, maybe it
would extend the conversation to something deeper.”
The committee chose Covering from
more than 160 suggestions made by 224
students, alumni, faculty and community
members. Four other books were considered as finalists.
PHOTOS BY DAN SEARS ’ 74
Venable, Rock of the Chemistry Department,
Comes Down to Make Way for New Building
By late February,Venable Hall was all as well as the existing Kenan and More- tation as one of the country’s elite research
but gone, stripped carefully of the head chemistry labs and Phillips Hall, and a universities.
lingering presence of noxious biological sciences building now under Venable contained 143,000 square feet;
chemicals and chipped to pieces by back- construction — will be the largest con- the new building, for which the name of
hoes and bulldozers. A new building — struction project to date in UNC’s history Francis P. Venable likely will be retained
even bigger than the old Venable — will be and will provide students and faculty with for all or part, will be 166,000 square feet.
erected in its place to house the chemistry high-technology laboratories and lecture In the first phase of the complex, Chap-and marine sciences departments and a halls for advanced research in the depart- man and Caudill opened in fall 2006. The
new science library. ments of chemistry, materials science, second phase, begun in May 2006, includes
When finished about 2010, the science physics and astronomy, marine sciences and the renovation of the Kenan Labs, built in
complex — consisting of the Venable computer science. The project also is seen 1971, and an addition to the computer sci-replacement, the new Chapman Hall and as an advantage in efforts to pull in and ence department’s Sitterson, built in 1987,
Caudill Labs, an addition to Sitterson Hall, retain faculty and strengthen UNC’s repu- and the new biology complex.