Battling Bias | Beaufort County Now | Students asked to complete Pirate Read before their first semester

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Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Crystal Baity.

After a year of turmoil and change across the country, this year’s Pirate Read will challenge new ECU students to look inward to help reduce bias on campus. | Photo: Rhett Butler

    This year's Pirate Read, "The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias" by Dolly Chugh will offer East Carolina University students tips to reduce the effects of bias in themselves and on campus.

    Each year, a committee of ECU faculty members, staff and students choose a book for freshmen to read before their first semester.

    "Due to the events of the past year, this book stood out in its approach to the diversity and inclusion discussion," said Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of student affairs at ECU and the Pirate Read Committee co-chair. "We wanted a book that is relevant and people can relate to."

    The book offers guidance on how to confront difficult issues including sexism, racism, inequality and injustice so readers can make the world and themselves better.

    "Hopefully, they will be able to apply the book to themselves and become even more self-aware," Hardy said. "It is important to know oneself. As they do that, we hope that students will strive to be better people."

Dolly Chugh | Photo: Brett Topel
    Chugh is an award-winning psychologist and associate professor of management and organizations at the Stern School of Business at New York University. She studies how and why people, however well-intended, are prone to race and gender bias, as well as what she calls "bounded ethicality," according to her website.

    The author describes "good-ish" people, those who are always growing, Hardy said. She also uses headwinds and tailwinds metaphors to talk about systematic differences.

    "I hope students will recognize some of the tailwinds that others are facing in life that they may not experience," Hardy said. "Lastly, I hope they will gain practical methods to support people who are different than they are."

    Chugh offers tools to talk about political issues with family, to be a better colleague to people who don't look like you and to avoid being a well-intentioned barrier to equality. Being the person we mean to be starts with a look at ourselves, according to the book's back cover.

    "I appreciate that the examples provided show that this work is messy, but you can move forward by acknowledging mistakes and learning and growing from them," Hardy said. "The 'messiness' can lead to growth and change if we are intentional about the self-reflection and growth."

    Published in 2018 by Harper Business, the 320-page book has been called "engaging," "important" and "essential reading."

"I hope students will recognize some of the tailwinds that others are facing in life that they may not experience. ... I hope they will gain practical methods to support people who are different than they are."
  – Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of student affairs

    "Dolly Chugh has written the most important and actionable book on reducing bias that I have read," Dr. David Thomas, president of Morehouse College and author of "Leading for Equity" and "Breaking Through," said about the book in a review. "Using powerful and enduring findings from research on bias, she explains the reasons we fail to be the person we mean to be and provides prescriptions for managing the pitfalls of our humanness. This deeply personal book is a must-read."

    In another review, tennis champion and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King said: "Dolly Chugh helps us identify our 'platform of privilege' and guides us on how we can use this and other tools to create positive change. She encourages us to accentuate our strengths and to manage our weaknesses, and forces us to focus on being better and stronger in everything we do."

    Students will find out about the book — available for purchase at Dowdy Student Stores — during new student orientation this summer.

    The Pirate Read Committee is made up of faculty members, a student and representatives from student affairs and Joyner Library. The committee is planning events that complement the book for the upcoming academic year, which will be updated on the Pirate Read website.

    ECU students have been asked to read a common book before their first semester each year since 2008, when the Pirate Read program began.
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