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A Letter From Provost Berliner about the Common Reading

May 2015

Dear First-Year Student:

On behalf of President Stuart Rabinowitz and the entire Hofstra community, greetings, and welcome to Hofstra University. You are about to join a vibrant, engaged, diverse community, with opportunities ranging from clubs, concerts, and athletics to internships and all the cultural events the New York metropolitan area has to offer. First and foremost, however, we are an academic community. At Hofstra, not only will you pursue subjects that already interest you, but our faculty will also spark your interests in new directions.

We use our summer orientation program to give you a taste of the kind of excitement you will experience this fall in a Hofstra classroom. To that end, we are asking all first-year students to read Suzan-Lori Parks’ play, Topdog/Underdog. We’ll discuss it together this summer when you come for orientation. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2002 and went on to successful runs on and off  Broadway and elsewhere.  I think as you read it you will see why.  It tells the story of two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, whose names were given to them as a joke.  It recalls the darkness of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, with its universal themes of sibling rivalry and resentment—but it transplants these themes into a contemporary context of comedy and race.  We know we cannot escape our past, yet we also feel a sense of freedom and responsibility as we confront the future.

To get started, visit hofstra.edu/commonreading. There, you can view video clips of Hofstra faculty and students talking about the book, and you can share your own thoughts about it. If you have questions about the common reading or about New Student Orientation, please call (516) 463-4874 or send an e-mail to orientation@hofstra.edu.

I look forward to meeting you this fall.


Herman A. Berliner, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs