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We at the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center are horrified by the brutal killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other Black victims of police violence. We deplore the encompassing systemic violence and oppression directed against African Americans across the United States. We condemn the violent suppression of protests, just as we are inspired by those who are risking their lives to take a stand against racial injustice.
We pledge to redouble our efforts to promote effective teaching, learning, and dialogue about racism, racial violence, and racial justice in colleges, universities, and communities across the United States. We join all those committed to anti-racism, which Ibram Kendi has called “a radical choice in the face of history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.” That reorientation requires difficult conversations about race, white supremacy, and anti-racism, and we will continue to engage in those conversations and to build on them with concrete actions to help move our institutions, our communities, our nation, and the world towards a more just and peaceful future.
To strengthen a democratically engaged society, we seek to advance innovative practices in higher education that promote respectful, transformative dialogue on controversial topics and complex social issues, thereby reflecting a commitment to pluralism and academic freedom.
Teaching, learning, and applying effective skills for engaging in civil discourse on controversial topics must become an integral component of the missions of universities and colleges across the U.S. Join the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center to support this movement.
In 2011, the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center (DDNRC) was formed to support the integration of teaching and learning about difficult dialogues into university missions across the U.S. and the world.
Like citizens across the country, university leaders are troubled by the increasingly polarized and hostile nature of public discourse within our democracy. A growing intolerance of those with whom we differ—whether due to political outlook or personal identity—has come to characterize our national conversation. In addition, university campuses have increasingly experienced restrictions on academic freedom and the expression of controversial views by both students and faculty.
University leaders recognize that the capacity to engage in informed and respectful civic and political discourse is at the heart of a democracy, that academic freedom and the ability to express and entertain controversial views is at the core of a university’s mission, and that universities are among the few places where students can experience and develop these capacities and freedoms.
We call on all colleges and universities to join us in ensuring that our campuses remain places where freedom of expression and academic freedom are protected and encouraged, pluralism is enhanced and celebrated, and teaching and learning about difficult dialogues becomes an integral component of our missions.