One thing that all Seton Hill University (SHU) students had in common was their first assignment: summer reading. However, incoming freshmen and transfer students will not have to complete this assignment, because SHU has decided to eliminate the summer reading program.
“The [summer reading] committee created a survey, which basically tried to assess how much faculty and staff wanted the program to exist, how much they participated in the program and whether they referred back to either the books or the day later in the year,” said Nicole Peeler, head of SHU’s summer reading committee. “Because there was a lot of ambivalence about the program and because most people didn’t use the books at all the rest of the year, we recommended that this program be discontinued.”
Each year, the committee chose a book for all first-year students to read, which they received at their orientation over the summer. Then, students and faculty gathered in groups following the opening liturgy for discussion. The program began in 1998, and members of the committee varied each year, mostly consisting of faculty. Peeler said if there is “a will or a way,” the program could return in the future.
“It might look a little different, or it might be shaped around a visiting speaker grant or something, but it could happen again,” Peeler said.
Sophomore English – Creative Writing major Marisa Valotta was disappointed to hear the program would be discontinued and said reading never seemed like homework because she loves English.
“I think the discussion simply allowed students to start getting to know each other in an environment full of unfamiliar people,” Valotta said. “It seemed like a great effort on the university’s part to bring people together and show that they cared about the students and wanted to get to know them.”
The committee chose a fiction book last year: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This novel sparked questions about the benefits and drawbacks of technology, since it was about a new virtual reality in the future.
“I really liked the book that we read, but I can see how it wasn’t really necessary to do the program,” said sophomore biology major Hannah Hartman. “I found that since I had orientation later than most, I didn’t have much time to read the book and was scrambling to get it done.”
Both Hartman and Valotta agreed the program should continue, but with slight changes.
“I think it could be improved if the students could have more of a choice of what they want to read,” Valotta said. “Maybe have students somehow vote on what book to read.”
“Something should be done about the way we discussed the book,” Hartman added. “It didn’t really seem like that much of a discussion.”
Although the program will no longer continue, students who enjoy reading have another option. Peeler created a book club with Jessica Mann, assistant dean of Student Engagement, and any students interested in joining can email email@example.com. As she reflects on her six years with the program, Peeler said she had a great experience.
“I loved reading the books and I loved having a touchstone experience that everyone participated in,” Peeler said. “I also loved working with what was a great committee of people who loved to read.”