The Common Read Experience

Common Read Experience

Binghamton University is excited to continue the Common Read Experience for all incoming first-year students. The program helps students gain new perspectives on the most important issues of our days, learn how to engage in constructive dialogue and debate and acclimate to the intellectual life of a premier university. The Common Read also enables students to build connections to the campus community through talks and programming over the summer, and participate in activities and events throughout the fall.

Why would you want to be involved in the Common Read?

7 Reasons for Incoming Students to Join the Common Read Experience

The bulk of common read programming will take place in person during B-Welcome Week and will continue throughout the fall semester, providing a chance for all new students to participate. While we hope everyone joins us, this program is highly recommended but not mandatory.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil

For this year’s selection the Book Selection Committee, comprised of Binghamton University faculty and staff, reviewed all of the available options from Penguin Random House around the topic of Big Data and selected Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. 

In Weapons of Math Destruction, data scientist Cathy O’Neil explores how the algorithms that regulate our lives in ever-increasing ways are often flawed and discriminatory. 

It’s a timely and engaging book in which the award-winning author Cathy O’Neil draws on her expertise as a mathematician and data analyst to illuminate the ways in which Big Data is misused to the peril of our civic freedoms, educational and professional opportunities, careers and finances. Deploying humor and storytelling while demolishing flawed methodologies, O’Neil homes in on such topics as college rankings, online advertising, racial profiling, the job market and the credit rating system to show how many statistical models “define their own reality and use it to justify their results,” often with extremely damaging consequences. 

Through consideration of Weapons of Math Destruction, students will emerge from the Common Read Experience better able to critically evaluate the statistics and data they will encounter not only during their educational experiences but in their future work and life.   

For more information and to listen to an excerpt read by Cathy O’Neil, visit the Penguin/Random House website

Common Read Events

Algorithms of Oppression: A Conversation with Safiya Noble

6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall

Noble, an internet studies scholar and author of critically acclaimed Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, will discuss digital media and how it overlaps with racial, gender, cultural and technological issues. Noble’s talk is part of the Binghamton University Common Read Experience, a program for first-year students that allows them to gain new perspectives on fundamental issues while also building connections with their peers and faculty. 

Noble’s academic research focuses on society and how it is impacted by digital media platforms on the internet. Noble is a 2021 MacArthur Fellow, the first recipient of the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, Associate Professor at the University of California, and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. During a critical time where technology dominates society, Noble provides extensive insight on the ways that people are affected by the platforms that they use daily. 

The event is open to ALL students, faculty and staff. 

The Annual Public Debates and Deliberation Challenge 

6-8 p.m. Tuesday, October 25 in UU-Mandela

Do algorithms promote inequity? What are the benefits and harms of social media? What can be done to tackle misinformation online? Come together with your fellow students for discussion and debate on these and other issues related to this year’s Common Read: Weapons of Math Destruction. 

Students will work in small groups to develop an argument related to the debate questions. All participants can contribute ideas and will select one group member to present their argument. No prior debate experience is required! 

Prizes will be awarded for the winning individuals as voted by judges and peers. Food will be provided. 

Sponsored by: Speech and Debate, Multicultural Resource Center, UDiversity Educational Institute, Scholars Program and Center for Civic Engagement. 

Contact information

Students with questions should email their collegiate professor/faculty-in-residence:

Common Read Experience steering committee:

Megan Benson, lead instruction and outreach librarian

Sean Fenty, director of the writing initiative

Jonathan Karp, associate professor/undergraduate director of Judaic studies

Pete Nardone, director of The Union

Stephen Ortiz, assistant vice provost for academic enrichment and executive director Binghamton University Scholars Program

Kelli K. Smith, assistant vice president for student success

Betsy Staff, director of new student programs

Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations

Submit a question

Accommodations: Students wishing to request accommodations to ensure their equitable access and participation in the common read experience should contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office. The office is located in the University Union room 119, and they can be contacted at 607-777-2686.