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.
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.