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WSU Common Reading Archives: 2015-16

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson


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About the AuthorAbout the BookEvents CalendarFor Students and FamiliesFor Faculty and StaffContact Us

WSU’s 2015-16 Common Reading book used by thousands of WSU first-year and other students in classes and beyond.

Photo of book coverSelection

WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Daniel J. Bernardo announced on April 9, 2015 that the next Common Reading book selected would be Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson.  Bernardo commented he found the selection to be “well written and authored by someone who will certainly continue to be a relevant figure in the social justice space for years to come.” The Common Reading Selection Committee had provided three books to the Provost for consideration from 25 books nominated by the WSU community and beyond. Just Mercy, Bernardo said, “addresses the important social issue of criminal justice and its interaction with racial discrimination in our country.”

Two-Year Theme: “Social justice and Leadership”

For the first time in the nine-year-history of the Common Reading Program, a thematic approach was applied. The books nominated for the 2015-16 year needed to reflect “social justice and leadership.”  Following a theme would allow students and professors to go into greater depth and think broadly about big issues. The theme would last two years, then be replaced by a new theme. 

To Faculty: Availability of Limited Desk Copies

Examination copies of the book were available tofaculty who were considering using the book Just Mercy in their classes or programs in 2015-16.

Used in Classes, Programming

Pullman students in first-year and other courses used the Just Mercy throughout the 2015-16 academic year. Topics from it were raised in classes, guest lectures, and outside programming to inspire academic discussions between and among students and faculty across the disciplines. Robust supplementary programming enhanced topics from the book and included faculty and guest-expert lectures, film showing, hands-on activities, and shared events with campus partners.

Assessment of the Program

The WSU Common Reading Program undergoes assessment reviews following the close of each academic year in which a book was used in classes and programming.  The assessment reports for 2015-16 and the use of Just Mercy, and other common readings, are available on the assessment webpage of this site.

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About the Author

Social justice activist, attorney, and author of Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.  He has “won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.” He has argued cases to keep children out of adult jails and prisons.

Stevenson was described by South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu as “America’s young Nelson Mandela” and likened by author John Grisham to Atticus Finch, the heroic fictional lawyer in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird classic American novel.

Stevenson delivered the ninth annual Common Reading Invited Lecture at Beasley Coliseum on the Pullman campus Dec. 1, 2015. He called on listeners in the audience to “have a voice and take action” when they believe an injustice has been done, or to support a cause that matters to them. He signed books for readers following the well-attended presentation.

“We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community…I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and – perhaps – we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” – Bryan Stevenson

About the Book

Published in October 2014 by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, Just Mercy is nonfiction and written in first person by attorney Stevenson. Many of his cases are profiled in Just Mercy. In it, he calls for compassion in the pursuit of justice. “My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth…[it] is justice,” he wrote in the introduction to the book.

In addition to WSU, the book has been used at many universities and schools as a common reading.

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Calendar for 2015-16 Just Mercy-related Events

THE FOLLOWING TEXT APPEARS AS IT DID FOR STUDENTS AND OTHER AUDIENCES THROUGHOUT THE ACADEMIC YEAR.

Check here for upcoming Common Reading events, including the Common Reading faculty and guest expert lecture series. As plans for each event are finalized, updated information will be noted on this page. Use the “Jump to Month” feature to explore events by month.

Need a Common Reading stamp to prove attendance? Look for events that include this note: “Common Reading stamp available.”

Unless otherwise stated, listed events are open to the public at no charge.

Jump to Month

Annual Invited Lecture
Ongoing Exhibits
August
September
October
November
December
January
February
March
April

Annual Invited Lecture

Bryan Stevenson
2015-2016 Invited Lecture for Just Mercy
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. Beasley Coliseum

Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson visits Pullman students, faculty, staff, and community to present the ninth annual Common Reading Invited Lecture.

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Ongoing Exhibits

  • Jan. 20- Mar. 20, Anthropology Museum, College Hall

    James Barker “Photographs from Selma”  (Photography exhibit sponsored by the WSU Martin Luther King Committee)

    In 1965, WSU staff member James Barker was asked by a group of WSU campus and Pullman community activists to travel from Pullman to Selma, Alabama, to take photographs of the famous march led by Martin Luther King Jr. The photographs he took while this historic event will be on display until March 20. See a related WSU Magazine article for more information.

  • Through Feb. 29, 2016, Bundy Reading Room, Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom Prison, 1994-2014”  (Art exhibit hosted by the WSU Department of English and presented by Anna Plemons)

    The exhibit features artwork created at New Folsom Prison between 1994-2014 by incarcerated artists participating in the California Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None of the artists whose work is displayed had formal art training before joining AIC classes. The English Department offers this exhibit in conjunction with the WSU Common Reading program’s 2015-16 selection of the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s book, and his work as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, resonates with the mission of AIC in that both projects challenge deeply-held stereotypes about incarcerated people. Both projects also press important and timely questions about what it means to be human and what the practice of mass incarceration says about American society.

    The exhibit is presented by English faculty member Anna Plemons who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009; specific inquiries about the show can by sent to her at aplemons@wsu.edu. The exhibit will be on display in the Bundy Reading Room until March 2016; reservations to view the show can be made by contacting English at 509-335-2581.

  • Through Mar. 25, 2016, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) center of Terrell Library, ground floor

    “The Case of the 12-Year-Old Sheriff Killer: Herbert Niccolls and the Washington Justice System”  (Hosted by MASC)

    In the very early morning hours of August 5, 1931, just about 30 miles directly south of Pullman, Asotin County Sheriff John Wormell and his deputies responded to a report of a burglary at an Asotin store. Twelve-year-old Herbert Niccolls Jr. was inside, stealing gum and tobacco, and emptying the cash register. As the sheriff interrupted the burglary and ordered him to come out, the boy drew a loaded revolver and pulled the trigger. Sheriff Wormell died instantly.

    This exhibit explores aspects of the crime, the trial, Niccolls’s experiences as a juvenile sentenced to life in the Washington State Penitentiary, and his eventual pardon. His case attracted national attention, notably from Father Edward Flanagan of the famous Boys’ Town home in Nebraska. The exhibit features primary source documents about the case from Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, the Washington State Archives, and the Asotin County Museum. Common Reading stamp available; see MASC staff for a stamp to prove attendance at the exhibit.

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Fall 2015 Events

August 2015
  • Aug. 15, 2015-Feb. 28, 2016, Bundy Reading Room of Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom, 1994-2014”

    (Exhibit hosted by the WSU Dept. of English)

    This exhibit features art created at California’s New Folsom Prison near Sacramento between 1994-2014 by inmates participating in the state’s Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None had formal art training before joining AIC classes. AIC is a statewide, state-funded program that brings to inmates professional arts instruction in visual, performing, literary, and media into California prisons. The exhibit has been curated by WSU English faculty member Anna Plemons, who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009. The art will be displayed through Feb. 2016; faculty wishing to arrange a class visit should contact the Dept. of English. Common Reading Stamp available at the Sept. 29 reception only.

  • Week of Welcome, Aug. 17-21 (workshop sessions; see programming schedule)

    Power and Privilege 101: Marc Robinson and Jenne Schmidt, WSU Office of Diversity Education

    This workshop introduces the concepts of power, identity, and privilege using engaging activities and popular culture media. Co-facilitated by Diversity Education’s social justice peer educators, participants will explore their own identities and avenues to get involved in social justice on campus.

    A Compass to Explore the Common Reading, Just Mercy: Marc Robinson and Jenne Schmidt, WSU Office of Diversity Education

    Using this year’s Common Reading book, Just Mercy, by Brian Stevenson, as the foundation, this workshop explores various social issues, including race, social class, inequality, history, and justice, which underpin the text. This interactive workshop uses activities, video clips, and small group discussions; it provides students with tools to engage in Common Reading conversations about these issues.

  • Tues., Aug. 25, 7- 9 p.m., CUE 203

    Screening of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, 129 minutes) (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    Monroeville, Ala., is the home town of celebrated author Harper Lee and the basis for the fictional town of Maycomb in her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is also the location where Walter McMillian was unjustly accused, tried for murder, incarcerated, and sentenced to death for killing a white woman. Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, took on the case postconviction to exonerate McMillian, by proving that witnesses had lied on the stand and the prosecution had illegally suppressed exculpatory evidence. McMillian’s conviction was overturned and he was released in March 2003 after spending six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

    Stevenson is attributed with saying that while Monroeville proudly celebrates its connection to the novel and film of To Kill a Mockingbird, the town remained blind to contemporary racial bias and injustices in its administration of justice. “We start this year’s series with a screening of this classic film to provide the context and story that this year’s common reading will challenge and extend,” says Karen Weathermon, co-director of the Common Reading. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Aug. 31, Noon-1:00 p.m., Bryan Hall 308

    Leslie McCall on “The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality” (Hosted by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service’s Coffee & Politics Series)

    Leslie McCall, author and Northwestern University professor of sociology and political science, will discuss American views about income inequality, economic beliefs, and what she believes to be the era of rising inquality. In her latest book, The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution, McCall challenges widespread assumptions and claims that Americans have desired less inequality for decades. Common Reading Stamp available.

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September 2015
  • Tues., Sept. 1, 4:30-5:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Faith Lutze on “The Evolving American Prison: Executing the Ideals of Justice, Mercy, and Redemption” (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    Faith Lutze is a professor in the WSU Dept. of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Prisons in the United States have a long history of adapting to shifting notions of justice, mercy, and redemption. Criminal justice and prison leaders are expected to translate philosophy into reality for both staff and offenders. Historical and contemporary research shows there is often a gap between our intentions (conscience) as a society and the reality of our practices (action). This presentation illustrates both the good and the bad in our use of prisons to achieve criminal justice goals. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Sept. 8, 7 p.m., CUE 203

    Brian Kemp on “From Mendel’s Pea Plants to DNA Fingerprinting: How one 19th century monk’s observations in the garden form the basis for individual identification in the forensic sciences today” (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    Brian Kemp, associate professor in the WSU Dept. of Anthropology and the School of Biological Sciences, will introduce the audience to DNA and the structure of the human genome. What is DNA and what does it do? How do we study it? These topics will be addressed in the context of the discovery of the principles of inheritance by Gregor Mendel in his pea plant garden in the 1860s. Beyond being of tremendous historical relevance, Mendel’s observations form the basis today for DNA fingerprinting. Among its many uses, DNA analysis now is a central tool in forensic science, both for the trial of new cases and for the retrial of old cases that predate the use of DNA evidence. By the end of the lecture, audience members will have a full understanding how DNA is used to identify individuals. No prior knowledge is needed! Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Thurs., Sept. 10, 5:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Arlene Dávila on “El Mall: The Class and Spatial Politics of Shopping Malls in LA”  (Hosted by the Center for Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies, and co-sponsors)

    Dávila is a New York University professor of anthropology and American studies. Her work focuses on the global political economy of Latino/Latin American cultures, with a focus on Puerto Ricans in the United States. Her most recent publications include Culture Works: Space, Value, and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas and other books focusing on comparative race/ethnic studies, urban studies, and media and visual studies. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Sept. 15, 7 p.m., CUE 203

    “Broken on All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration, and New Visions for Criminal Justice in the U.S.”  (Film showing hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    This documentary centers around author and law professor Michelle Alexander’s theory, presented in her book The New Jim Crow, that mass incarceration is a new caste system in America that is enacted through the rise of the drug war, “tough on crime” policies, discretion and bias in policing and sentencing, and the legal discrimination of those with criminal records in almost every aspect of citizenship. See http://brokenonallsides.com for more on this film. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Fri., Sept. 18, 2:00 p.m., CUE 518

    Mary Yu, Washington State Chief Supreme Court Justice  (Sponsored by the Pre-Law Resource Center)

    Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Yu is speaking on campus as part of the Cougar Pre-Law Day sponsored by the Pre-Law Resource Center. The day also includes a panel discussion featuring WSU alumni in the legal profession at 2:30, a Law School Admissions panel at 3:45, and a Law School Admissions fair and reception at 4:30, all in CUE 518. For more information, visit http://prelaw.wsu.edu/pre-law-day. Common Reading Stamp available at Chief Justice Yu’s presentation only.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 15, Terrell Library Atrium showcase

    “Books for Prisoners Programs”  (Exhibit hosted by WSU Libraries; organized by WSU Instructional Librarian Holly Luetkenhaus,

    This exhibit highlights books-for-prisoners programs–volunteer organizations across the U.S. that collect donations of books and provide them free of charge to people who are incarcerated. Visitors will learn about the history of programs in the U.S., how they operate, and the benefits they offer. It will feature notes from prisoners who have received books through “Books to Prisoners,” the only program operating out of Washington state, located in Seattle.

  • Tues., Sept. 22, 7:00 p.m., Todd 130

    Jeff Guillory on “Reflections of a Segregated Life”  (Sponsored by the Common Reading Program)

    Jeff Guillory, WSU Director of Diversity Education, will discuss his experiences growing up in the Jim Crow south during the 1950s and 1960s, and the effect this system had on him at each stage of his formative years. It is a personal story that provides the listener with an immersion experience with hate and its far-reaching effects on a young man’s view of himself, authority, race, education, and law enforcement until the sudden shock of his first encounter with integration turns everything upside down. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Sept. 28, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Todd 130

    “At Night I Fly”  (Film showing)

    “At Night I Fly” is an internationally-acclaimed film about the New Folsom maximum-security prison in California. Its U.S. début was at the 2013 Fortnight Film Festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The website for the film says “…men at (New Folsom) let us see their world…(which is) less about dangerous drama and more, as one of them describes, about isolation. About closure of both the mind and the heart. And the spirit.” This intimate documentary shows prisoners, most serving a life sentence, who refuse such closure and instead work to uncover and express themselves. Their primary tool is making art and the film takes us to New Folsom’s Arts in Corrections’ room, to prison poetry readings, gospel choirs, blues guitar on the yard, and to many more scenes of creation. The film “shows the artistic and human journey these men take, as well as the need that fuels it, and the beauty and pain encountered along the way.”  Following the showing there will be a question-and-answer session with Jim Carlson, California’s Arts in Corrections (AIC) Program former director, who appears in the film. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Sept. 29, 5:00-6:30 p.m., Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom Prison, 1994-2014”  (Open house for art exhibit, hosted by the WSU Dept. of English and curated by Anna Plemons)

    The exhibit features art works created at New Folsom Prison between 1994-2014 by incarcerated artists participating in the California Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None of the artists whose work is displayed had formal art training before joining AIC classes. The English Department offers this exhibit in conjunction with the WSU Common Reading program’s 2015-16 selection of the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s book, and his work as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, resonates with the mission of AIC in that both projects challenge deeply-held stereotypes about incarcerated people. Both projects also press important and timely questions about what it means to be human and what the practice of mass incarceration says about American society. Common Reading Stamp available at the open house only.

    The exhibit is presented by English faculty member Anna Plemons who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009; specific inquiries about the show can by sent to her at aplemons@wsu.edu. The exhibit will be on display in the Bundy Reading Room until March 2016. If you are unable to attend the exhibit open house on Sept. 29, reservations to view the show can be made by contacting English at 509-335-2581.

    See Daily Evergreen article.

  • Tues., Sept. 29, 7:00 p.m., Todd 216

    Carol Hinds on “Re-imagining Rehabilitation: A Mother’s Story”  (Sponsored by the WSU Dept. of English)

    Carol Hinds is the parent of an inmate at California State Prison-Sacramento (New Folsom Prison) and has served as secretary on the prison’s Inmate Family Council for the past 14 years. Her son is serving a 25-to-life sentence through 2025. In addition to her work with the Council effecting policy change and supporting inmate families, she has spoken before the California legislature and at national conferences, sharing her personal story about the positive and healing effects that art, music, and creative writing have had on her son and others in the prison. Hinds has become a strong advocate for prison arts programs and her story challenges audiences to think broadly about what an agenda for restorative justice might look like. She is cited in Paths of Discovery: Arts Practice and Its Impact in California Prison (Brewster 2012). Common Reading Stamp available.

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October 2015
  • Through Oct. 15, Terrell Library Atrium showcase

    “Books for Prisoners Programs”  (Exhibit hosted by WSU Libraries; organized by WSU Instructional Librarian Holly Luetkenhaus)

    This exhibit highlights books-for-prisoners programs–volunteer organizations across the U.S. that collect donations of books and provide them free of charge to people who are incarcerated. Visitors will learn about the history of programs in the U.S., how they operate, and the benefits they offer. It will feature notes from prisoners who have received books through “Books to Prisoners,” the only program operating out of Washington state, located in Seattle.

  • Through Feb. 29, 2016, Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom Prison, 1994-2014”  (Art exhibit, hosted by the WSU Dept. of English and presented by Anna Plemons)

    The exhibit features art works created at New Folsom Prison between 1994-2014 by incarcerated artists participating in the California Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None of the artists whose work is displayed had formal art training before joining AIC classes. The English Department offers this exhibit in conjunction with the WSU Common Reading program’s 2015-16 selection of the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s book, and his work as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, resonates with the mission of AIC in that both projects challenge deeply-held stereotypes about incarcerated people. Both projects also press important and timely questions about what it means to be human and what the practice of mass incarceration says about American society.

    The exhibit is presented by English faculty member Anna Plemons who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009; specific inquiries about the show can by sent to her at aplemons@wsu.edu. The exhibit will be on display in the Bundy Reading Room until March 2016; reservations to view the show can be made by contacting English at 509-335-2581.

  • Mon., Oct. 5 through Fri., Oct. 9, Bins in Holland/Terrell Library, Owen Science and Engineering Library, and the Student Recreation Center

    “Books for Prisoners”  (Donation drive, organized by WSU Libraries and the Center for Civic Engagement)

    A book drive Oct. 5-16 will benefit inmates of Washington State Penitentiary. The drive is part of a related exhibit in Terrell Library on programs that provide free books to prisoners and this year’s Common Reading book “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson.

    “The book drive and exhibit give people a chance to not only learn about how important books-to-prisoners programs are, but also provide the opportunity to make a difference,” said Holly Luetkenhaus, WSU instruction librarian and exhibit organizer. “Having books available through libraries and book stores is something many of us take for granted, but those who are incarcerated have limited access to education and reading material. This book drive is one way to help provide these resources to those who otherwise might have no access to them.

    “We know that formal education programs in prisons have declined in recent years, making the availability of books even more important,” said Melanie Brown, director of the WSU Center for Civic Engagement. “Donating a book or two is a small but meaningful act.”

    Gently used novels, chess books, dictionaries and GED test preparation books are frequently requested by inmates. Also popular are thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal materials, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing books (including blank notebooks) and books on paranormal phenomena. Donors are asked to NOT include spiral-bound or hardback books, romance novels or books published before 1984 (binding glue used before that year becomes brittle, causing books to fall apart).

    Collections bins will be located in Holland/Terrell Library, Owen Science and Engineering Library and the Student Recreation Center.

    For more information about the book drive, please contact Luetkenhaus at 509-335-4667 or holly.luetkenhaus@wsu.edu.

  • Mon., Oct. 5, 3 p.m., Foley Speaker’s Room, 308 Bryan Hall

    Sister Simone Campbell  (Hosted by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service)

    Sister Simone Campbell is the executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. She is a religious leader, attorney, and poet with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. She authored A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community. In Washington, D.C., she lobbies on issues of peace-building, immigration reform, healthcare, and economic justices. She is a noted national speaker and educator on public policy issues and has led three cross-country “Nuns on the Bus” trips, focused on social justice issues. She is a member of the Sisters of Social Service religious community and has served as its leader in the U.S., Mexico, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Oct. 6, 5 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Terry Tempest Williams  (Sponsored by the Visiting Writers Series in the WSU Dept. of English)

    Terry Tempest Williams is called “the citizen writer” who speaks and speaks out on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, she has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Wed. and Thurs., Oct. 7 and 8, drop in anytime between 10:00 a.m.-2 p.m., Ensminger Pavillion

    “Bringing Justice to Life”  (An interactive project, hosted by HD 205 students, in the WSU Dept. of Human Development)

    This is an interactive event intended to inform and educate the WSU community about a variety of social justice issues. Students enrolled in HD 205 (Developing Effective Communication and Life Skills) have been charged with using their creativity to engage others in better understanding a social justice issue about which they are passionate. The drop-in event is intended to celebrate creativity and engagement and to honor justice. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Wed., Oct. 14, Noon, Holland/Terrell Library Atrium

    Faith Lutz leads discussion on “College Behind Bars: Why Educate Inmates?”  (Hosted by the Public Square Program in the Center for Civic Education)

    Prison education programs have been shown to have positive outcomes. When education programs are implemented in prisons, inmates are significantly less likely to become repeat offenders and are more likely to find stable employment after release. Despite these benefits, the number of education programs available in US prisons has dropped from 350 postsecondary programs in 1990 to only 12 by 2005.

    Why aren’t we prioritizing education in prisons when the research shows that it reduces repeat crime? What can be done to change this?

    Dept. of Criminal Justice and Criminology Professor Faith Lutze will lead the discussion with students, faculty, staff, and community members. Students can register for this event on CougSync, and Global Campus and urban campus students are invited to join the discussion via live stream on CCE’s YouTube channel. Visit cce.wsu.edu for more information. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Wed., Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., Jones Theatre at Daggy Hall

    “La Causa” by Living Voices  (Sponsored by WSU Performing Arts; free for WSU students)

    In the late 1960s, a new movement changed the lives of Latin American farm workers who fought for civil rights and decent working conditions. Living Voices brings this chapter of American history and the movement for greater justice to live by presenting one woman’s struggle to free her family and people from poverty. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Oct. 19, 4:30 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    James Meredith presents “The fight for equality then and now”   (Sponsored by the Foley Institute with support from the WSU President’s Office, Associated Students of Washington State University, and the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs)

    The Foley Institute is pleased to present civil rights icon James Meredith, who will discuss his personal experiences fighting for equal rights and his view of the struggle today. Meredith was the first black student to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962. In 1966, he was shot while leading the Mississippi March Against Fear. He has spent the decades since fighting for equality, speaking, and writing about his experiences, Mississippi and American history. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Wed., Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Gary Jenkins and Bill Gardner on “The Current Evolution of Law Enforcement”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Pullman Chief of Police Gary Jenkins and WSU Chief of Police Bill Gardner will discuss how law enforcement continuously evolves to meet societal needs and demands. Following a short history, the police leaders will talk about current events that have made international news and the role of technology, training, and philosophy in law enforcement. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Oct. 22, 5:30 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Byron Hurt on “Working to Eliminate All Forms of Violence”  (Presented by the YWCA of WSU and Men for Social Change)

    Byron Hurt has served as a gender violence prevention educator and trained thousands of young men and women on cutting-edge issues. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, published writer, anti-sexist activist, and lecturer. Since 1993, he has been using his draft, voice, and writings to broaden and deepen how people think about gender, race, sex, violence, music, and visual media. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Friday, Oct. 23, 7:30 – 10 p.m., CUB Senior Ballroom

    Shades of Black (Performance Event)  (Sponsored by the Student Entertainment Board, the Black Student Union, and the Office of Student Involvement)

    Shades of Black, now in its 12th year, highlights the multidimensional experience of different cultures in America through the performing arts—poetry, spoken word, stepping, and skits. The evening of performances highlights the experiences of marginalized communities within our society and on our campus, offering hope as well as a profound celebration of diversity.  Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Oct. 27, 7:00 p.m., Todd 116

    Prison Debate Project-Exchanging Knowledge and Exploring Justice  (Film and student panel hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Join us in exploring the art of civil discourse through structured debated as experienced by Coyote Ridge Corrections Center and WSU students as presented in the documentary The Walls. Following screening of the short documentary, WSU students will speak on a panel about their experiences with the project. Come prepared to engage in meaningful conversation about punishment, mercy, and redemption.Common Reading Stamp available.

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November 2015
  • Through Feb. 29, 2016, Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom Prison, 1994-2014”  (Art exhibit, hosted by the WSU Dept. of English and presented by Anna Plemons)

    The exhibit features art works created at New Folsom Prison between 1994-2014 by incarcerated artists participating in the California Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None of the artists whose work is displayed had formal art training before joining AIC classes. The English Department offers this exhibit in conjunction with the WSU Common Reading program’s 2015-16 selection of the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s book, and his work as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, resonates with the mission of AIC in that both projects challenge deeply-held stereotypes about incarcerated people. Both projects also press important and timely questions about what it means to be human and what the practice of mass incarceration says about American society.

    The exhibit is presented by English faculty member Anna Plemons who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009; specific inquiries about the show can by sent to her at aplemons@wsu.edu. The exhibit will be on display in the Bundy Reading Room until March 2016; reservations to view the show can be made by contacting English at 509-335-2581.

  • Wed., Nov. 4, 5:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Cynthia Chandler on “Unstuck: Resisting Slavery, Eugenics, and the Prison Industrial Complex”  (Sponsored by the WSU Dept. of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies)

    As the co-founder and executive director of Justice Now, a human rights organization, Cynthia Chandler’s work focuses on women in prison and local communities. She speaks and publishes on the prison industrial complex, racial justice, and women’s health. Chandler also founded and directed Women’s Positive Legal Action Network–the first organization in the U.S. advocating on behalf of HIV+ women in prison. In recognition of her support of the leadership of people in prison toward social change, she was selected as an original recipient of the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award. In 2005, she was selected by the Women’s Health Activist Network as a Top 30 Activist for Women’s Health. Chandler helped create the practice of compassionate release for people dying in prison through sponsorship of model decarceration legislation, for which she was designated the 1997 Attorney to Whom California Can Be Most Grateful by California Law Business. She remains one of the only lawyers practicing in this area. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Nov. 9, 4:30-6:00 p.m., Heald G3

    “Prison State”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    “Prison State,” a 2014 Frontline television documentary, follows the path of four people caught up in Kentucky’s criminal justice system. The four—two teenage girls and two adult men—come from Beecher Terrace, a housing project where one out of every six people cycle in and out of prison every year. Highlighted Issues include juvenile detention, mental illness, and addiction as they contribute to the prison population. Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson is among those who provide commentary in this film. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Wed., Nov. 18, 3:30-5:00 p.m., Terrell Library’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) center, ground floor

    “The Case of the 12-Year-Old Sheriff Killer: Herbert Niccolls and the Washington Justice System”  (Opening winter exhibit reception hosted by MASC)

    In the very early morning hours of August 5, 1931, just about 30 miles directly south of Pullman, Wash., Asotin County Sheriff John Wormell and his deputies responded to a report of a burglary at an Asotin store. Twelve-year-old Herbert Niccolls Jr. was inside, stealing gum and tobacco, and emptying the cash register. As the sheriff interrupted the burglary and ordered him to come out, the boy drew a loaded revolver and pulled the trigger. Sheriff Wormell died instantly.

    This exhibit explores aspects of the crime, the trial, Niccolls’s experiences as a juvenile sentenced to life in the Washington State Penitentiary, and his eventual pardon. His case attracted national attention, notably from Father Edward Flanagan of the famous Boys’ Town home in Nebraska. The exhibit features primary source documents about the case from Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, the Washington State Archives, and the Asotin County Museum. Common Reading Stamp available; see MASC staff for a stamp to prove attendance at the exhibit.

  • Tues., Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m., Todd 116

    John Lupinacci on “Schools, Youth, and the Criminal (In)Justice System”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Following up the 2014 Frontline documentary Prison State and in preparation for Bryan Stevenson’s presentation in December, this interactive presentation will introduce the relationship between schools, youth identities, and prisons in United States. Dr. Lupinacci, a faculty member in the College of Education, will provide an introductory overview of the school-to-prison pipeline as part of what many researchers are referring to as the North American “prison industrial complex.” This overview of youth in prisons will be accompanied by questions for audience participants to discuss. Often such presentations can leave us feeling powerless; however, this session will culminate by providing audience participants with opportunities to connect with regional and national efforts to reform and/or abolish the systemic incarceration of youth through the school-to-prison pipeline.Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Wed., Nov. 18, 5-7 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Deryl G. Hunt on “Moving from Diversity to Unity to Community: Building a More Inclusive COUG Community at WSU”  (Sponsored by WSU Office of Equity and Diversity Women’s Empowerment Program and ASWSU)

    Author, scholar, and international consultant Deryl G. Hunt will speak about his research and practice using the Ellison Model of building inclusive community. Using the cornerstones of trust, honor, and respect, Dr. Hunt will present on the efficacy of this model as an innovative approach to building inclusive and sustainable communities and resolving conflict within professional and academic spaces. Common Reading Stamp available.

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December 2015
  • Common Reading Invited Lecture: Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson

    Tues., Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., Beasley Coliseum

    (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Bryan Stevenson, author of the 2015-16 Common Reading book, Just Mercy, will deliver the annual Common Reading Invited Lecture, answer audience questions, and sign copies of his book. Proof of attendance will be provided to students.

  • Through Feb. 29, 2016, Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall

    “Outsider Art: Work from New Folsom Prison, 1994-2014”  (Art exhibit, hosted by the WSU Dept. of English and presented by Anna Plemons)

    The exhibit features art works created at New Folsom Prison between 1994-2014 by incarcerated artists participating in the California Arts in Corrections Program (AIC). None of the artists whose work is displayed had formal art training before joining AIC classes. The English Department offers this exhibit in conjunction with the WSU Common Reading program’s 2015-16 selection of the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s book, and his work as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, resonates with the mission of AIC in that both projects challenge deeply-held stereotypes about incarcerated people. Both projects also press important and timely questions about what it means to be human and what the practice of mass incarceration says about American society.

    The exhibit is presented by English faculty member Anna Plemons who studies prison writing programs and has taught creative nonfiction at New Folsom since 2009; specific inquiries about the show can by sent to her at aplemons@wsu.edu. The exhibit will be on display in the Bundy Reading Room until March 2016; reservations to view the show can be made by contacting English at 509-335-2581.

  • Through March 25, 2016, Terrell Library’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) center, ground floor

    “The Case of the 12-Year-Old Sheriff Killer: Herbert Niccolls and the Washington Justice System”  (Hosted by Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections — MASC, on the ground floor of Terrell Library)

    In the very early morning hours of August 5, 1931, just about 30 miles directly south of Pullman, Wash., Asotin County Sheriff John Wormell and his deputies responded to a report of a burglary at an Asotin store. Twelve-year-old Herbert Niccolls Jr. was inside, stealing gum and tobacco, and emptying the cash register. As the sheriff interrupted the burglary and ordered him to come out, the boy drew a loaded revolver and pulled the trigger. Sheriff Wormell died instantly.

    This exhibit explores aspects of the crime, the trial, Niccolls’s experiences as a juvenile sentenced to life in the Washington State Penitentiary, and his eventual pardon. His case attracted national attention, notably from Father Edward Flanagan of the famous Boys’ Town home in Nebraska. The exhibit features primary source documents about the case from Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, the Washington State Archives, and the Asotin County Museum. Common Reading Stamp available; see MASC staff for a stamp to prove attendance at the exhibit.

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Spring 2016 Events

January 2016
  • Thurs., Jan. 14, 6-8:30 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Screening of the movie Selma  (Hosted by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee as part of this year’s MLK observance titled “Selma to Pullman: Honoring the past, Creating the Future.”)

    This film chronicles the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to secure equal voting rights. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Thurs., Jan. 21, 6-7 p.m., Terrell Library Atrium; reception following

    James Barker and David Warren on the 1965 Selma March  (Sponsored by the WSU Martin Luther King Jr. Committee)

    In 1965, WSU staff member James Barker was asked by a group of WSU campus and Pullman community activists to travel from Pullman to Selma to take photographs of the famous march led by Martin Luther King Jr. Then-ASWSU President David Warren, who also traveled to Selma, will join Barker to speak about their experiences. The photo exhibit itself will on display at the Anthropology Museum in College Hall until March 20. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Thurs., Jan. 28, 6:30-8:00 p.m., CUB Senior Ballroom

    Jasiri X, keynote speaker for the WSU MLK Community Celebration  (Hosted by the WSU MLK Committee)

    Jasiri X is the award-winning hip-hop artist, emcee, blogger, and community activist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who uses his music to provide a social commentary on a variety of issues. He co-founded the anti-violence group One Hood, and started the 1Hood Media Academy to teach African-American boys how to analyze and create media for themselves. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Fri., Jan. 29, Noon-1 p.m., Bundy Reading Room, Avery Hall

    Anna Plemons (English) on “Rhetorical Justice: (Re)Writing the Narrative of Imprisonment in an Era of Mass Incarceration”  (Hosted by the WSU Department of English as part of its regular colloquium series)

    Bryan Stevenson, author of the 2015-16 Common Reading book, suggests that engaging the issue of mass incarceration requires that activists and scholars work to change the narrative that both explains and justifies why so many people in the United States are behind bars. Anna Plemons, who for many years has taught writing to inmates in California’s New Folsom Prison, will offer some considerations for enacting such a radical rhetorical intervention. Examples of texts by incarcerated writers that re-story the prison experience will be included. Common Reading stamp available.

    See Ongoing Exhibits

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February 2016
  • Mon., Feb. 1, 4:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Todd Butler (English) on “Deciding for Death: Emotions and the Video ‘Victim-Impact Statement'”  (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    In the United States, a death sentence requires more than a conviction. Either a jury or a judge must also weigh separately the presence or aggravating factors to the crime, a process which in most states allows victims the opportunity to make what are often emotion-filled statements regarding the impact of a particular crime upon family, friends, and society. Drawing upon diverse sources, Butler, associate professor in the WSU department of English, examines just how those emotions work upon a jury’s decision-making process, what their importance is, what their dangers are, and what happens when those victim-impact statements become digital productions, complete with not just words but sound and visual imagery. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Tues., Feb. 2, Noon-1 p.m., Bryan 308

    Suzanna Reiss (University of Hawaii) on “Drug Wars and Warriors”  (Co-sponsored by the Roots of Contemporary Issues Program, the Department of History, and the Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service)

    How has the “war on drugs” evolved over time, and why has it continued against all evidence of success? Suzanna Reiss will draw from her recent book We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire (2014) in this talk. Reiss will also be speaking at 7 pm in the CUB Senior Ballroom on “Legalizing Drugs: State Power and the Creation of Mind-Altering Markets” to deliver the 2016 RCI George and Bernadine Converse Lecture. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Feb. 2-4, 4-9 p.m., McCroskey Hall (Basement level)

    Gannon- Goldsworthy presents “Tunnel of Oppression”  (Sponsored by Residence Life)

    Residence Hall event.

  • Tuesday, February 16, 5:00 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    ??? Life sponsors this annual interactive event that explores a variety of social justice issues. ??? Common Reading stamp available.

  • Mon., Feb. 8, 4:30-6:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Paula Young Shelton workshop on “Teaching Social Justice to Children”  (Sponsored by the WSU College of Education)

    Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, is an early childhood educator and the author of the children’s book “Child of the Civil Rights Movement.” This award-winning book presents a child’s view of participating in the Civil Rights Movement, including the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. Shelton commitment to enriching the lives of young children has taken her to diverse teaching positions in East Africa, the public housing projects of Atlanta, elite neighborhoods in New York City, and the culturally diverse communities of Washington, DC. This event is especially appropriate for students interested in teaching. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Tues., Feb. 9, 5 p.m., CUE 203

    Matt Stichter (Philosophy) on the Ethics of Punishment  (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    Bryan Stevenson, author of the 2015-16 Common Reading book, makes a powerful case for reforming our criminal justice system. Is his call for “Just Mercy” compatible with our justifications for punishment? To answer this, Stichter,associate professor of philosophy at WSU, will discuss several theories of punishment, which lie at the intersection of ethical theory and the philosophy of law. Despite the differences between these theories, all can provide support for radical reforms of our punitive practices. Common Reading stamp available.

    Screening of the film “White People”  [Sponsored by the Student Entertainment Board (SEB)]

    This MTV documentary by journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas examines what it means to be young and white in contemporary America. This 2015 documentary aired on MTV as part of its “Look Different” campaign. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Wed., Feb. 17, 6:00 p.m., CUB Senior Ballroom

    Jose Antonio Vargas presentation  [Sponsored by the Student Entertainment Board (SEB)]

    Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the U.S. from the age of 12, he is the founder of Define American, a nonprofit media and culture organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in the U.S. He is also the founder of #EmergingUS, a digital magazine focusing on race, immigration, and identity in a multicultural America that will launch this year. In 2011 Vargas revealed his own status as an undocumented immigrant in a New York Times essay and later in a Time magazine cover story. His work connects to Just Mercy through his efforts to focus attention on the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, an aspect of incarceration that often falls outside of public view. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Thurs., Feb. 25, 5 p.m., WSU Museum of Art

    Justin Torres (visiting writer)  (Sponsored by the WSU Department of English as part of the Visiting Writers Series)

    Justin Torres is author of the critically acclaimed novel “We the Animals,” which deals with social justice themes of poverty and racism as well as family and place. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, his celebrated short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, and The Washington Post. Torres currently is a professor of English at UCLA. For more on Torres and the WSU Department of English Visiting Writers Series visit: https://english.wsu.edu/visiting-writers/ Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Mon., Feb. 29, 5 p.m., CUE 203

    Stephen James and Lois James (Criminal Justice, Sleep Performance Center) on “Fatigue, Distraction, and Bias: What They Mean for Law Enforcement and the Communities They Serve”  (Hosted by the Common Reading Program)

    Stephen James and Lois James, both of whom are researchers in WSU’s Sleep and Performance Research Center, say that police officers are the gatekeepers to the criminal justice system. Although bound by laws that dictate who they should and shouldn’t arrest, they are still relatively autonomous agents. As such, in the pursuit of a fair and just system, it is critical that they do not let their personal frustrations or biases influence how they treat the people they are sworn to protect and serve. However, police officers are human beings, and have the same physical and mental limitations as the rest of us. Throughout this talk, the James’s will discuss several pivotal problems facing the police profession today: chronic shift-work- related fatigue, dangerous distracted-riving conditions, and implicit racial biases. They will examine the impact of these problems across a range of policing tasks, from deadly force judgement and decision making, patrol driving, and tactical social interaction. They will invite the audience to consider how police fatigue, distraction, and bias erodes progress toward a “just and merciful” criminal justice system. They will also provide insight into what police departments can do to safeguard against these corrosive effects Common Reading stamp available.March 2016

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March 2016
  • Mon., Mar. 7, 4:30 p.m., Todd 216

    Jacqueline van Wormer (Criminal Justice, WSU Spokane) on “Reforming the Criminal Justice System: National and Local Efforts”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Van Wormer, a WSU Spokane faculty member, lectures extensively across the country on issues related to courts, addiction, treatment, adolescent brain development, and the drug court model. She has also worked with dozens of drug court teams to assist them in the planning and operation of this alternative model to traditional sentencing. A WSU alumna, Van Wormer was named the State of Washington’s inaugural Champion for Change in 2009 for her work in juvenile justice. Her talk will address her work leading criminal justice reforms in Spokane County that advocate for health-based treatment for those in incarcerated due to mental health and substance abuse issues. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Tues., Mar. 8, 7 p.m., Todd 216

    Dan LeBeau on Juries and Criminal Justice  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Dan LeBeau, the Senior Deputy Prosecutor for Whitman County, will talk about the role juries and jury selection play in the criminal justice system. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Mon., Mar. 21, 4:30 p.m., CUE 203

    Patricia Kuzyk (Economics) on “An Economist’s Perspective on Just Mercy”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    An award-winning teacher and clinical assistant professor in the School of Economic Sciences and the WSU Honors College, Kuzyk will discuss economic incentives and arguments present within several practices in the United States criminal justice system. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Wed., Mar. 23, 5 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Kevin Willmott (Visiting Writer)  (Sponsored by the Visiting Writers Series in the WSU Department of English)

    Common Reading stamp available.

  • Mon., Mar. 28, 4 p.m., CUB Auditorium

    Nancy Rodriguez (Director, National Institute of Justice) on “Crime and Race”  (Sponsored by the Foley Institute)

    Common Reading stamp available.

  • Tues., Mar. 29, 4 p.m., Todd 130

    John Roll (Nursing) on Health Issues and Incarceration  (Sponsored by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    John Roll, Professor and Senior Vice Chancellor at the WSU Health Sciences campus, will speak about the intersections of substance addictions, mental health, and the criminal justice system, highlighting how current research is being used to improve various programs. Common Reading stamp availableApril 2016

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April 2016
  • Mon., April 4, 3 p.m., CUE 202

    Fé Lopez (Seattle’s Community Police Commission), on Seattle’s Community Police Commission (CPC)  (Co-sponsored by the Pre-Law Resource Center and the WSU Common Reading Program)

    WSU alumna Fé Lopez works as the executive director of the Community Police Commission (CPC) for the City of Seattle, a position to which she was appointed by Mayor Ed Murray. The CPC plays a key role in police reform efforts in the city related to its charge to provide a robust community voice regarding police practices. The CPC also issues reports and recommendations on topics such as police training and the use of force. Lopez is a past president of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington (LBAW) where she and other minority bar and community leaders advocate for greater police accountability. Lopez earned her J.D. at the Seattle University School of Law. Common Reading Stamp available.

  • Fri., April 8, 3-5 p.m., CUE 202

    Global Case Final Competition  (Opening remarks by a U.N. committee executive followed by top five teams’ presentations; hosted by WSU International Programs)

    Since spring 2011, graduate and undergraduate students have applied to participate in this popular annual tradition that counts on teamwork to develop solutions to global problems. Out of 20 participating teams, the top five finalists present their proposals at a Mom’s Weekend forum to judges and the public; the winning team gets scholarships to travel to the location of the “case” to present their work to an official organization. In 2015, for example, the winning team plus faculty representatives went to Brazil to promote community responsibility toward the environment. That year, the Global Case was linked to the 2014-15 Common Reading book, Garbology, by Edward Humes.

    For this 2016 competition, teams have worked again on a topic related to the year’s common reading book, “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson: finding solutions to real cases of arbitrary detention in the U.S. Their proposals will inform the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) report to the U.S. and in so doing, affect how it may approach future cases around the world. The winner of the competition will be invited to provide their solutions to the WGAD in Geneva, Switzerland, in November.

    Roland Adjovi, professor and second vice chair of the WGAD, will deliver opening remarks for the WSU competition. WGAD was established in 1991 by the United Nations to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily that may be in violation of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Common Reading stamp available–note that this is a two-hour event.

  • Tues., April 12, 5:30-7 p.m., CUE 203

    Jay Smooth (New York-based hip-hop scholar and cultural commentator)  (Sponsored by the department of critical culture, gender, and race studies)

    Best known for his award-winning Ill Doctrine web video series, Smooth combines a love for hip-hop with a passion for social justice. Smooth is the founder of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, the Underground Railroad, as well as one of the first hip-hop websites at hiphopmusic.com, where he pioneered the form now known as hip-hop blogging. Most recently Jay Smooth has won widespread acclaim for his commentaries on politics and culture, including a recent TEDx talk, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race.” Common Reading stamp available.

  • Thurs., April 14, 6-9 p.m., CUE 318

    Screening of “Under the Same Moon”  (Sponsored by MSS and GISORC)

    This 2007 feature film is being screened as part of the “Undocu/Queer Week: Seeing the Invisibles” sponsored by Multicultural Student Services and GIESORC. The film tells the parallel stories of a nine-year-old boy in Mexico and his mother, an undocumented worker in the US, as they attempt to reunite. This week of events highlights issues faced by undocumented immigrants and by those in the LGBTQ community. Free snacks and the Common Reading stamp available.

  • Sat., April 16, 8:30-9:30 a.m., CUE 202

    Jacque Larrainza and Teresita De la Torre (Sponsored by MSS and GISORC)

    The opening keynote of the “Undocu/Queer: Seeing the Invisibles” conference features Seattle Counseling Center staff member Jacque Larrainza on resources for the undocumented LBBTQIA immigrants, while California artists Teresita De La Torre will speak about her performance art project “Todos los dias/ Every Day” that makes tangible issues of undocumented immigration through a simple plaid shirt. More on De la Torre’s work at http://fusion.net/story/117059/she-turned-a-tattered-shirt-near-the-border-into-performance-art/ Common Reading stamp available.

  • Sat., April 16, 3:40-4:30 p.m., CUE Atrium

    Isis Lara on the “WSU Undocumented Student Experience and Arbitrary Detention”  (Sponsored by sponsored by Multicultural Student Services, GIESORC, and the Common Reading Program)

    Lara, a 2010 WSU graduate in English and Film Studies, will share her story of being an undocumented student for her first two years in college as well as her experience being arbitrarily detained at the Texas border in 2014 after visiting her native Honduras, despite having permanent US residency. Her personal story illuminates another aspect of the US detention system—that faced by undocumented residents or those suspected of being undocumented. Since graduation, Lara has worked with underrepresented and homeless youth programs through AmeriCorps and with Friends of Youth in Seattle. This is the closing event in the “Undocu/Queer Week: Seeing the Invisibles.” Common Reading stamp available.

  • Mon., April 18, 5 p.m., CUE 203

    Noel Vest (Experimental Psychology) on “The Downward Spiral of Addiction and the Journey Out: Prison, Academia, and Recovery”  (Hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program)

    Experimental psychology Ph.D. student and WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Noel Vest will speak about his life experiences and the perspective they lend to this year’s conversation about Just Mercy. He is candid about his struggle with addiction and alcoholism for much of his life. Drug- and alcohol-free since July 1, 2002, he has dedicated his life to helping other addicts overcome addiction as well as teaching them that it is never too late to battle back from adversity. His talk will address both the downward spiral of addiction and the problems many addicts face on the long road to recovery. Told through his own inspiring and life-changing experience, Vest will discuss his journey through the criminal justice system and the redeeming role that academia has played in his spirited story. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Thurs., April 21, 5 p.m., Museum of Art

    Sean Thomas Dougherty  (Sponsored by the English Department’s Visiting Writers Series)

    Perhaps best known for his live performances, Dougherty has been called a “master of momentum.” His poems reflect the influences of his working-class, interracial upbringing. He has written several books of poetry or mixed-genre literature and has performed his work across the U.S. and Europe. Common Reading stamp available.

  • Tues., April 26, 10 am to 2 p.m., CUB Ballroom

    “Bringing Justice to Life,” an Interactive Project of HD 205  (Sponsored by the Dept. of Human Development)

    This event will be an interactive, live demonstration intended to inform and education the WSU community about a variety of social justice issues. Students in HD 205 have been charged with using their creativity to engage others in better understanding a social justice issue about which they are passionate. The drop-in event is intended to celebrate creativity and engagement and to honor justice.

    Common Reading stamp available.

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For Students and Families

There are some general questions about the common readings that many students ask. These frequently-asked-questions and answers may help you.

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For Faculty and Staff

Keep Your Students Engaged!

Each year, a committee of WSU faculty and staff, along with oversight from the provost, selects a “Common Reading” book to connect the community through a shared academic experience. The Common Reading book for 2015-16 was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Faculty and staff who wished to use the book during their courses in fall 2015 and spring 2016 used the resources below to help fill out their curriculum.

A Question for Your Students to Ponder…

Our author remembers his grandmother telling him throughout his childhood, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close.”  As you start your studies at WSU, how will you get close to the issues and interests that are most important to you?

Special Resources
Other Resources
WSU Libraries’ “Frontline” Documentaries

A number of “Frontline” documentaries from television and additional resources on criminal justice are available online at http://www.pbs.org. The archive includes the search term “criminal justice.” Eight of these documentaries are:

  • “The Real CSI” (2012, 52 min) on the reliability of forensic science.
  • ” Stick-up Kid” (2014, 28 min) on what happens when juvenile offenders placed into adult prisons, featuring the story of Alonza Thomas who served a 13-year sentence for a botched armed robbery. Thomas is the older brother of NFL safety Phillip Thomas.
  • “The New Asylums” (2005, 116 min) on nearly 500,000 persons with mental illness serving time in U.S. jails and prisons; and The Released (2009, 54 min), a follow-up documentary which looks at what happens to the mentally ill after they are released, profiling the fates of some of those covered in the 2005 documentary; and “The Released” (2009, 54 min), a follow-up documentary looking at what happens to the mentally ill after they are released , profiling the fates of some of those covered in “The New Asylums.”
  • “Lost in Detention” (2011, 53 min) on the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. (Also available on DVD from WSU-Vancouver.)
  • “Prison State” (2014,82 min), which follows the path of four people caught up in the cycle of Kentucky’s criminal justice system. The four—two teenage girls and two adult men—come from Beecher Terrace, a housing project where one out of every six people cycle in and out of prison every year. Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson is among those who provide commentary for this film. The website includes a 9-minute encapsulation of one of the teenage girl’s stories that would be easy to use in a classroom setting, as well as a variety of other resources. This film is one of a pair of films on the criminal justice system; the second, “Solitary Nation” (53 min) is a shocking and brutal look at solitary confinement in a Maine prison, available at the same website.
  • Death by Fire” (2010, 53 min) on the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and the death penalty debate.
WSU Libraries’ Videos
  • “Out in the Night”(2014), Dir. Blair Doroshwalther, 75 min., WSU DVD 4600 In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street.  The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of “Killer Lesbians” and a “Wolf Pack.” Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four maintained their innocence. This award-winning documentary examines the sensational case and the women’s uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender, and sexuality play in our criminal justice system.
  • “Slavery by Another Name”(2012), Dir. Sam Pollard, 90 min., WSU DVD 4599  This film challenges one of our country’s most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Spanning history over eight decades (1865-1945), this documentary recounts how the criminal justice system allowed insidious new forms of forced labor to emerge in the American South that kept hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in bondage. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal writer Douglas Blackman, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil Way to World War II. See http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/pbs-film/ for additional resources and information.
  • “Broken on All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration, and New Visions for Criminal Justice in the U.S.” (2013), Dir. Matthew Pillisher, 68 min, WSU DVD 3905 This documentary centers around author Michelle Alexander’s theory, presented in her groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration is a new caste system in America that is enacted through the rise of the drug war, “tough on crime” policies, discretion and bias in policing and sentencing, and the legal discrimination of those with criminal records in almost every aspect of citizenship. See http://brokenonallsides.com for more on this film.
  • “The House I Live In” (2013), Dir. Eugene Jarecki, 108 min, WSU DVD 4448  Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary by award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki traces the history of the drug war to examine the causes and effects of the drug laws from multiple perspectives—dealers, users, families, guards, lawyers, and judges. The film includes commentary by David Simon, creator of The Wire; sociologist and WSU alumnus William Julius Wilson; and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow. Special features include 2-to-3-minute spots on overcrowding, self-soothing, private prisons, jury nullification, and how work defines us. See www.thehouseilivein.org for additional resources.
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”(1963), Dir. Robert Mulligan, 129 min, WSU DVD 2311Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1961, the film portrays Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930s. Finch, whose portrayal by Gregory Peck earned him an Academy Award, agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Considered a classic American film, To Kill a Mockingbird is connected as well to Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Monroeville, Ala., the home town of Harper Lee and the basis for the fictional town of Maycomb that is the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird, is also the location where Stevenson’s death-row client Walter McMillian was unjustly accused and tried for murder of a white girl. Stevenson helped to exonerate McMillian, who was released from prison in 2003 after six years on death row. Stevenson points out that while Monroeville proudly celebrates its connection to the novel and film To Kill a Mockingbird, even turning the courthouse into a museum and hosting an annual performance of a theatrical version of the story, the town remained blind to contemporary racial injustices in its administration of justice.

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Contact for the WSU Common Reading Program

Please connect with program co-director Karen Weathermon.

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