Ford Foundation Launches 'Difficult Dialogues' Initiative

The Ford Foundation has announced a new $2.5 million grants initiative to support scholarship, teaching, and civil dialogue about difficult political, religious, racial, and cultural issues in undergraduate education in the United States.

The goal of the Difficult Dialogues initiative is to help colleges and universities create a campus environment where sensitive subjects can be discussed in a spirit of open scholarly inquiry, intellectual rigor, and with respect for different viewpoints. The initiative will support new and existing courses and academic programs that increase knowledge of the religious and cultural complexity of American society and engage students in constructive discussion of conflicting viewpoints.

"Debates taking place on college campuses often mirror controversial issues being examined in the society at large," said foundation president Susan V. Berresford. "Educators are seeking ways to foster constructive dialogue on these matters and at the same time reduce intolerance and threats to academic freedom. Foundation resources can help this effort."

The foundation has issued a request for proposals inviting accredited, degree-granting, nonprofit institutions to submit preliminary proposals by May 16, 2005, and will invite formal proposals from the most promising projects to compete for approximately twenty-five grants of up to $100,000. The initiative is part of a broader, $6.7 million effort by the foundation to understand and combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry in the United States and Europe.