If it wasn't bad enough that Virginia Commonwealth University gave new meaning to "Honorary Degree" by conferring on former Richmond Police Chief Rodney Monroe a bachelor's diploma when he took a whopping six hours of credits (only two classes), now VCU's incoming freshmen summer reading requirement is coming into question. According to a letter to the editor by a parent of an incoming VCU freshman published yesterday in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, all freshmen at their orientation were assigned to read a book about a homosexual coming out of the closet. It was the only book required for the 2008 Summer Reading Program and will be discussed during "Welcome Week."

This is not a small deal, not a casual summertime beach read. This is the first assignment for these students as collegians, where serious study and discovery is to take place, not transient, Oprah-like book-of-the-month drivel.

What happened to the great classic Western authors and their works on civilization, philosophy, economics, history, religion, art, culture? Or more modern European novelists, such as Joyce? Or 20th century American authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Ellison as well as giants who also were Richmonders: Mary Johnston, Ellen Glasgow or James Branch Cabell, for whom VCU's library is named? This truly is embarrassing for VCU.

People have their own time to indulge in whatever fleeting topic they wish to explore. We all know there's plenty of time for that in college. But the idea of a University is to expose students to time tested works of meaning and substance which provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The least VCU can do is educate them.