Earlier this summer on a warm evening, I came home from work to a package on my front doorstep. It was a package from Barnard College with my name on it. Inside, was a small book entitled Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham—a Barnard alumna.
While the reading wasn’t required, the fact that Barnard sent incoming first-years a non-required summer reading book has further reaching implications than merely being a freebie in the face of total fees upwards of $60,000 a year.
At a time when institutions are facing budget deficits and lackluster performance of endowments, the choice for an institution to allocate resources to send out copies of books to students is striking.
Optional summer reading is not merely a gesture of kindness. It is a gesture that embodies the so called spirit of college: learning, for learning’s own sake.
The said “spirit of college” is not merely exemplified in summer reading alone: it has made an appearance in college students’ social lives. This innate hunger for knowledge, or at least, the desire to seem “in the loop,” is now widely seen within our social media circles.
Notably, as both of us are familiar with, the students at Columbia University’s four undergraduate colleges have embraced social media. Social media has not only been used as a tool to learn about our future classmates and to ask about whether microwaves or rice-cookers will be permitted in dorm rooms, but also to share articles about recent events and social issues. Be it articles exchanged on police-brutality or LGBTQ issues, students have taken to using social media as an outlet for their musings.
In the spirit of these online musings, although not required in the slightest, many students have happily shared their opinions and feedback on the book Someday, Someday, Maybe. Even as the semester has begun, every so often, we hear our fellow classmates talking about the book.
Did you even read it?
What did you think of it?
The book has not only presented many opportunities for students to share their thoughts about the readings, but for them to bond as well—regardless of whether they thought it was too generically written or it changed their perspective.
And although, the words ‘non-required’ and ‘summer vacation’ are often a hallmark of lazy days and tea sipping, this optional reading is one of the hallmarks of a Barnard student’s education. With our peers’ eager attitudes toward the reading, Someday, Someday, Maybe isn’t just a book: it’s a bonding experience and valuable opportunity to learn before we even set foot on campus.