July 24, 2020

Hello, everyone,

I’ve been Zooming with my wonderful parents lately (they’re on the East Coast) and also thinking about how grateful I am to them. They instilled in me a love for reading, making it clear that books could truly change minds, expand horizons, and make a difference in our world. At this moment, when so many other escapes or pastimes are not available, all I need to do is open a new book to be transported, moved, educated, inspired.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce Rams Read, Colorado State University’s inaugural Campus Read, for the 2020-2021 academic year. We invite the entire university community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and families, donors, and Fort Collins residents—to join us in reading Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

In his 2014 New Yorker review of Citizen, Dan Chiasson wrote, “The book explores the kinds of injustice that thrive when the illusion of justice is perfected, and the emotional costs for the artist who cries foul.” Citizen is a bold book, and a bold choice for a Campus Read, and that’s why it’s perfect for CSU. We are also bold, and we are more committed than ever this year to realizing our goal of being an anti-racist, equitable institution and a community where everyone is valued—and feels valued.

Still, why launch a new university-wide initiative right now?

The new Rams Read initiative is actually in part a response to our current time. We cannot be physically together, but we can read together, and then discuss what we’ve read, finding the ways that the text challenges us, bridges the gaps between us, helps us understand one another better, and pushes us to act on our new knowledge and sense of connection. Our land-grant mission calls on us to face global challenges head-on and model resilience and growth in the face of them. Let’s do that this year by reading Citizen together.

How was this book selected?

Citizen was selected by three leaders whom I charged with getting this exciting program off the ground this year, fast: Dr. Ryan Barone, our Assistant Vice President for Student Success, Dr. Albert Bimper; who is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and also the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Diversity and Inclusion; and Dr. Ryan Claycomb from the Department of English, also in CLA, who led the Campus Read program for his previous institution before joining the CSU faculty.

After agreeing that Citizen was an excellent book selection for our university community at this moment in our nation’s history, the leaders of Rams Read then invited a diverse Working Group to join them in implementing the initiative. This group includes faculty and staff from across the university and will include students as well once their classes begin in August.

How will the Rams Read actually work?

The working group is planning with accessibility in mind, ensuring multiple text formats will be available. We hope to make copies of the text available to our first-year undergraduate students free of cost, and will have versions available physically and virtually through both the CSU library and CSU bookstore. We also hope faculty will explore the possible inclusion of Citizen in their courses this year where appropriate, and that faculty, staff, and students integrate discussions of the book as appropriate in student organizations, departments, colleges, and work teams.

I am deeply grateful to the whole team that convened quickly, enthusiastically, and with purpose to make this new program a reality for all of us. And I am grateful in advance for all of the members of our extraordinary community who I know will embrace this book, will read it, reflect on it, open their hearts and minds to it, and talk openly and honestly about it with those around them. I look forward to seeing the powerful impact, on our campuses and beyond, when Rams Read.