Students who connect with faculty and with other students around topics of mutual interest are most likely to thrive here. The On the Same Page program was created to give new students an opportunity to engage with the faculty and their fellow students around a common book or theme. This year’s book is Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. In September there will be multiple opportunities to  hear experts from various fields talk about the implications of this year's book and theme. For this assignment you will be required to attend at least one of these events. Our hope is that you will not only engage with this year’s topic but also gain a sense of the array of exciting events, lectures, exhibits, etc. that happen on campus nearly every day of the week. Most are open to all students, and they can be a great way to expand your intellectual horizons and your circle of Cal acquaintances.


You are to attend one On-the-Same-Page-related event.  Pay attention, take notes, perhaps pose a question to one of the speakers, and prepare yourself to write an engaged and engaging essay about it.

If you would like to attend an event with another student or group of students taking L&S 1, that’s great, though completely optional. If you go together, feel free to discuss the event, but also remember that your perspective and your written work should be your own.

Do note that the events are all free and open to everyone on a first-come-first-seated basis, so you should arrive early enough to get a seat. Not gaining admission to an event will not be an adequate excuse for not completing the assignment, so if you are shut out of one, try another.

Please note that this year there may be many campus events related to the our theme. For the purposes of this assignment, we are requiring you to attend one of the events officially sponsored or co-sponsored by On the Same Page: these are the only events where we will have a table where you can sign in. If you are super interested in an event sponsored by another campus unit, talk with your discussion section leader to see if an exception can be made. The approved events are as follow:

Keynote event by Bryan Stevenson, September 7 at 6:30.

"What Do We Know About Race and Crime Control?" September 19 at 3:00-4:30.

"Narrating Justice," September 22 at 3:30-5:00.

"System Outsiders," September 27, at 3:30-5:00.

Details of all these events can be found here


You can approach the essay in any way you like, with one caveat: you will not receive full credit if you turn in only a description or narration of the event you attended. Put yourself—your observations, thoughts, reactions, opinions, etc.—into the essay. Help your reader to imagine what it was like to be at the event, but also convey what went on in your head as you attended the event, and the thoughts it sparked upon further reflection afterwards. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you might answer in your essay, but only if they apply to you. These are meant just to give you some possible ideas, not as a template for your essay.

  • What did you learn that surprised you?
  • What did the speakers’ disciplinary perspectives add to the discussion of this year’s theme?
  • Did the event or discussion spark any new ideas in you, or new perspectives or interests?
  • Did the speakers project a postive or more pessimistic view of the future?
  • Were you inspired to engage with this year's theme in any other way, such as attending a rally or teach-in?
  • Were you inspired to take an active role in shaping the future through activism or any other activity?
  • What is the value of the On the Same Page program? Do you think it succeeded in its goals? How could it be improved?

See the syllabus for specific formatting guidelines.


Your essay is due at the beginning of your discussion section on November 4.


  • Did you attend an approved On the Same Page event and sign in at the door?
  • Did you convey your own thoughts and ideas in your essay?
  • Does your essay convey the flavor of the event you attended?
  • Is your essay well organized, and engagingly and clearly written? Have you avoided wheel spinning and padding, making every word count?


Details on the On the Same Page events can be found here