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Common Reading

Current Year

To the Entering First Years - Class of Fall 2021

Welcome to Santa Clara University! SCU’s First Years Common Reading for 2021-2022 is Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson.

As a new first years, you are invited to read this book and to discuss it as part of a campus-wide community of readers. Reading and talking about the book will remind you that shared intellectual engagement is at the very center of the academic community that you are about to join. The First Year Common Reading Program invites everyone on campus to think, talk, and learn together across and beyond the boundaries of the classroom by using the book as a starting point.

Read this book; talk about it with other students; discuss it with faculty, with staff, with administrators, with friends, and even--who knows?--with your family.

About the book

Lawyer Bryan Stevenson gives a first-person account of his decades helping marginalized Americans who have been unfairly and harshly punished by the U.S. criminal justice system, which disproportionately targets people of color and poor people. At the heart of Just Mercy is the story of Walter McMillian, a Black man who was framed for the murder of a girl named Ronda Morrison, convicted, and sent to death row.

Stevenson alternates chapters about Walter with his personal reflections on our country’s history with racial disparity and issues around incarceration. Stevenson highlights other groups of vulnerable people who have been victimized by the criminal justice system and shares the stories of the prisoners he has helped over the years. The book also follows the growth of Stevenson’s nonprofit law project, the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), through its expansion from focusing on death row prisoners to helping people sentenced to life without parole. Stevenson chronicles how EJI becomes a significant force in criminal justice reform. 

Click here for additional program information.



Film Screening and Panel Discussion - October 26th (click)


Common Reading Speaker Series


Read one Student's Response here.