The Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center (DDNRC) was founded in 2011 to ensure that college and university campuses remain places where we protect freedom of expression, sustain academic freedom, promote pluralism, and expand opportunities for constructive communication across different perspectives. Our inaugural biennial conference, in September 2014, brought together over 75 college and university leaders and stakeholders to share best practices and inspire action, under the theme “Advancing Meaningful Difficult Dialogue Practices in Higher Education: The New Imperative of Democracy?”
For many years, colleges and universities have experienced rising campus tensions, both inside and outside the classroom, as well as restrictions on academic freedom and the expression of controversial views by both students and faculty. In 2005, the Ford Foundation and a group of distinguished current and past Presidents and Chancellors called for the need to cultivate civility, and to address “difficult dialogues.” Since then, a number of colleges and universities across the nation have developed projects, training sessions, courses, and workshops for students, faculty, and staff to have difficult conversations in safe and productive ways. The DDNRC was born out of this work.