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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 29, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 36
Book On Racial Identity Chosen For Freshmen — and Faculty, Staff

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

After you've torn through the new Michael Chabon novel or the latest (and last) Harry Potter installment, the university has another book to add to your summer reading list.

In an effort to help build a sense of community, the Office of Student Life at Homewood has asked the incoming freshman class and the entire Johns Hopkins community to read Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum.

The book, a critically acclaimed best seller published by Basic Books in 1997 and now in its fifth edition, offers a perspective on racial identity development and examines the black-white dynamic, along with the unique circumstances of Latinos, American Indians, Asians and biracial youth.

Dorothy Sheppard, associate dean for student life, said that the university's hope is that this summer reading book will offer a shared experience for the incoming freshmen and help foster mutual respect and a renewed commitment to community here at Hopkins.

"We wanted to provide an activity so that coming in all the freshmen will have this one experience in common — a needed icebreaker at the beginning of the term," Sheppard said. "And we wanted others here to read the book to share that experience with these students."

She said this particular book was chosen due to its high relevance to diversity issues on campus, brought to the forefront last fall by a fraternity-party invitation that was considered by many to be racially insensitive and that sparked a loud reaction and much debate.

"What happened in the fall left some folks here shattered and brought a lot of these issues of race to the surface," Sheppard said. "We are hoping this [reading project] will also help improve community relations by extending the dialogue in this area."

As part of the experience, facilitated discussions on Tatum's book — led by staff, faculty and residential advisers — will be offered during freshman orientation week. Sheppard also said that her office is in talks with Tatum about coming to the campus sometime in September to lead a discussion.

The book is available in major bookstores and in most libraries, including the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Homewood.

To offer to lead one of the discussion sessions, contact Sheppard at


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