Freshman reading returns to the College

by Lou Scerra | 10/23/98 5:00am

For the first time in five years, the incoming freshman class was asked to enter a brave, new world by completing a summer reading project in preparation for lectures and discussions during Orientation.

Dean of First Year Students Peter Goldsmith said he is "very intent" on making the summer series a yearly part of Orientation Week.

This year's class read Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" in preparation for a lecture by Religion Professor Ronald Green during Freshman Orientation.

A discussion last fall between Green and Goldsmith prompted the return to a summer reading series for the first time since the Class of 1998 read "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" in preparation for a lecture by English professor William Cook.

Goldsmith plans to continue the series next year with the incoming Class of 2003.

"My interest was, in part, in helping to lend a somewhat more academic tone to Orientation," Goldsmith said. "Orientation is full of useful information, and a great deal of socializing which is important, but it seemed to me that we had an opportunity we had been missing to demonstrate to students that there's also pleasure to be found in exchanging ideas."

Goldsmith said the response to Green's lecture was "fabulous." Three optional lectures on the book given by different members of the faculty were well-attended as well, according to Goldsmith.

Of the freshmen that were interviewed and had the read the novel, most thought summer reading was a good idea within reason.

"I read 'Brave New World' and enjoyed it," Ben Steele '02 said. "I think summer reading is a good idea as long as the book is short and manageable."

Kate Cole '02 said, "I read parts of the book and found it to be a very interesting lecture. Summer reading is a good idea if the selected book is worth reading."

Some freshmen said they had read the book earlier in their scholastic careers but seemed to have enjoyed Green's lecture nonetheless.

"That some students had undoubtedly read the book before did not matter to us -- in fact, it was potentially an advantage," Goldsmith said. "The point was to help students to acquire the habit of exchanging ideas with each other and with their teachers."

As a result of the interdisciplinary nature of the book, which encompasses ethics, literature, medicine and biology, other optional lectures were held during Orientation.

Associate Professor of Ob-Gyn and Pathology Judy Stern spoke on "Biology and the Brave New World of Cloning," Philosophy Professor Bernard Gert discussed "Is it Unethical to Create a Brave New World?" and Spanish and Portuguese Professor Beatriz Pastor lectured on "Science, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Brave New World."

Goldsmith said 40 to 70 students attended each of the optional lectures.