This post was written by UW-Madison Journalism student, Lisa Speckhard.
Since 2009, UW-Madison has hosted Go Big Read, its common book program. A book is chosen to be widely read and discussed throughout campus and the community. According to the program’s website, the goal is to “engage students, faculty, staff and the entire community in a vibrant, academically driven experience.”
This year, the Go Big Read selection committee was looking for a book about inequality in America. They noted this was a pressing local issue, as could be seen in the Madison reactions to grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York, as well as the local shooting of Tony Robinson.
Over 200 entries were submitted by students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank chose “Just Mercy.”
Blank stated, “Bryan Stevenson’s book raises tough and important questions about inequalities in the criminal justice system … Now is a particularly good time to hold these conversations, as UW-Madison students, staff and faculty grapple with the ways in which these larger national issues affect our own community.”
The New York Times review of the book called it “a call to action for all that remains to be done.”
Bryan Stevenson is a the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. In 2015, he was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. You can learn more about his journey here:
UW-Madison and the greater Madison area offered many ways to interact with the book. UW distributed over 5,000 copies to new students, used the book in over 170 class sections, assigned it as reading for all first year law students, held a faculty and staff panel discussion on the issues raised in the book, and is hosting a human rights conference at the Pyle Center next week. Later in November, Central Library will provide a life-size model of a solitary confinement cell for visitors to experience.
Students even interacted with the book artistically. Business students made posters inspired by the book.
It wasn’t just students who were involved; the UW-Madison Police department also joined in.
Madison residents can listen to a chapter of the book everyday on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Madison Public Library facilitated discussion by distributing discussion kits.
And a community panel discussion, featuring the Middleton Police Chief and the CEO of Urban League, was held at Middleton Public Library.
At 7 p.m. Monday night, author Bryan Stevenson came to the UW-Madison campus to speak at Union South in Varsity Hall.
Students and people from the community formed a long line to hear him speak.
Before the talk, I asked audience members why they came.
Stevenson opened the talk with a vision for the future.
He then laid out four steps for arriving at that future.
During the event, some audience members used Twitter to state their agreement and enthusiasm.
After the event, I asked audience members what their biggest takeaway was:
The talk is available online for those with NetIDs.
Those interested in “Just Mercy” can continue listening to a chapter of the book a day on NPR, check out the Pyle Center’s upcoming human rights conference, or step into a model solitary confinement cell at Madison Public Library.
To read the original article by Lisa Speckhard click here.