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`Palace Thief' picked for freshman honesty discussion

Aiming to promote intellectual discussion, the Division of Student Affairs will distribute copies of the short story "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin to the Class of 2006 as a summer reading assignment.

Although administrators initially hoped to select a book when the program was first planned last semester, the committee charged with selecting the work eventually settled on just the short story. The committee considered assigning Canin's entire collection of stories, also called The Palace Thief, which won the 1994 Commonwealth Club Gold Medal for Literature. Ultimately, however, the book's title story emerged as the sole selection.

"The Palace Thief" focuses on the relationship between a history professor at a private institution and a troubled student. As integrity is one of the story's themes, story discussion will be integrated with the freshman class' introduction to the honor code.

"The story engages the reader in thinking about integrity, both academically and in general," said Assistant Dean of Student Development Ryan Lombardi.

The story was discussed at a conference on academic integrity held at Duke in 1996. Bruce Payne, lecturer of public policy studies, highlighted the story as a work that engenders classroom discussion of academic honesty.

Another committee will be created to develop questions for the discussion groups that are scheduled to take place on the Sunday of orientation, preceding Maya Angelou's annual address.

"We wanted to select a reading that provided an opportunity for students to read about and discuss something of relevance to their Duke career," said Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs.

Lombardi added that the University intends to incorporate the story with the Honor Council, Academic Integrity Council and the Freshman Advisory Counselor program.

Canin, a faculty member at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, will be invited to speak to students. The story has also been made into a film, starring Kevin Kline, to be released this fall.

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