U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A special reading room at the Air Force Academy might be small, but two professors say it offers cadets and faculty a treasure trove of big ideas and a safe space for open discussion.
The Diversity and Inclusion Reading Room in McDermott Library contains “a specially curated selection of books available for borrowing, furnishings arranged for informal discussion and a response board for cadet feedback,” said Daniel Couch, an assistant English professor at the school.
“Our intention is to create an informal space for cadets and permanent party to broaden and deepen their exploration of the issues involved in diversity, inclusion and justice,” Couch said.
Mark Jensen, president of the Academy’s faculty senate and a philosophy professor, said the reading room is the result of teamwork between faculty members and the Academy’s ongoing Critical Conversation series that formed in the wake of George Floyd’s Death.
Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died May 25 in Minneapolis when a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck. Protesters across the world rallied in reaction, sparking an international movement surrounding racial injustice in the U.S.
“People kept mentioning books in those conversations,” Jensen said. “There’s hundreds of books that ought to be available.”
The reading room opened at the start of the Spring Semester in January and contains a wide range of “primary sources, secondary sources, historical accounts, contemporary discussions, empirical studies and fiction,” Couch said.
“We continually invite suggestions for improving the space, as well as for additional books and resources,” he said. “Cadets are already using the space as a location to gather, peruse the material and comment on the [response] board,” he said.
Jensen hopes the reading room eventually expands.
“The next step is to find funding and procurement to purchase more books,” he said.
The reading room might be in its nascent stage, but Jensen said it’s a welcome addition to the Academy’s stance for tolerance, diversity and respect for all.
“We need to foster an understanding about the challenges of diversity, racism and injustice, promote a wide-range of perspectives and be respectful of people we agree and disagree with,” he said.