Scott Carlson of The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today (thanks to Ethicurean for the link) that Washington State University has suspended its freshman "common reading" program. The book the program committee had chosen to distribute to all incoming first-year students? Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Despite the fact that the school had already purchased 4,000 copies of the book, it posted a note on the Common Reading Program Web site May 1 announcing that because of budget cuts, the program was suspended this year. (The school lost $57 million in funding in the most recent round of cuts.) If teachers wanted to integrate the book into their curricula, they could still do so.
But what makes this story intriguing is that the Chronicle spoke to a number of sources, most anonymous, who said that WSU simply didn't want to offend agribusiness:
Jeff Sellen, an instructor at the university who sat on a committee in charge of implementing the reading program, says members of that panel were told "we could not call it a 'common reading.'"
"I think that was important because it would be less official and would maybe fly underneath the radar," he says. "It was obvious that it was political."