From the President
WITH THE BEGINNING of fall semester, the time has come to put away the beach novels and break out the more serious nonfiction books. Here are a few I am reading now—and why.
My motivation is to develop a better understanding of current and historical perspectives on activism and protest movements, especially as they connect to issues of social justice, equity, power, and privilege. The underlying issue of food insecurity, which is addressed in this magazine, is a part of this equation.
One of the books I’m reading is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In it, the author shares advice with his young son about growing up black, and he offers strategies not just for survival, but also for how his son can truly find himself and his own path in the world. Coates offers valuable perspective on an experience that we can all benefit from understanding.
I am also reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. This book explores colonialism and genocide at the founding of this country, which stand in such stark contrast to the romanticized histories that many of us learned in elementary school. I realize now that my elementary school education was a mash-up of Plains, Navajo, Cherokee, and Pueblo cultures—with a particular focus on Pocahontas, who was from the region of Tidewater Virginia where I grew up. This book provides a different and important narrative.
And I am reading Clara Bingham’s new book, Witness to the Revolution, whose lengthy subtitle is Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul. The timeline runs from August 1969 to September of 1970, and it weaves together first-person recollections of an incredibly eventful year, which included the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, the first Earth Day, the shootings at Kent State, and bombings at the University of Wisconsin. Many of the issues of that time, 45 years ago, played out on college campuses, and many of these issues continue to engage us today.
I am sure that topics in these books will be subjects of discussion on our campus this fall, and an overarching theme will likely be social justice and environmental responsibility in the context of free speech, respectful discourse, and our educational mission. These are important and timely conversations on our campus and across our nation, and I hope you are finding ways to engage in your communities and workplaces.
Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ph.D.