Campus: San Jose State University/Sonoma State University -- December 13, 2005

New Ford Foundation Grants to Promote Academic Freedom and Constructive Dialogue on College Campuses

26 colleges and universities selected for $100,000 grants

The Ford Foundation has selected 26 higher education institutions to receive grants of $100,000 each for projects that promote campus environments where sensitive subjects can be discussed in a spirit of open scholarly inquiry, academic freedom and with respect for different viewpoints.

The grants are part of Ford’s Difficult Dialogues initiative, created in response to reports of growing intolerance and efforts to curb academic freedom at colleges and universities. The goal is to help institutions address this challenge through academic and campus programs that enrich learning, encourage new scholarship and engage students and faculty in constructive dialogue about contentious political, religious, racial and cultural issues.

“Colleges and universities are uniquely suited to expand knowledge, understanding and discussion of controversial issues that affect us all,” said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “The selected projects illustrate the thoughtful and creative ways institutions are promoting intellectually rigorous scholarship and open debate that is essential to higher education.”

Over the course of the two year initiative, the grantees will be invited to share their experiences and ideas at regional conferences coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Center will award $10,000 stipends to an additional sixteen higher education institutions to allow them to participate in the initiative. It will also host a Web-based forum for project directors to share ideas online.

Examples of projects that will receive funding include: at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, new courses, faculty seminars and campus roundtables on religion and religious conflict; at Queens College in New York, the development of an expanded curriculum for promoting understanding and informed discussion about the conflict in the Middle East; at Mars Hill College in North Carolina, training for faculty and student leaders to foster productive discussions of race, sexual orientation and religion; and a project at Yale University that will examine whether courses about controversial issues increase tolerance and respect for different viewpoints among students.

The Ford Foundation launched Difficult Dialogues in April 2005 by inviting proposals from all accredited, degree granting, non-profit institutions with general undergraduate programs. Over 675 preliminary proposals were submitted, signaling widespread interest in finding effective ways to teach and discuss sensitive topics. A panel of external higher education experts reviewed the preliminary proposals and selected 136 institutions to submit final proposals.

Difficult Dialogues is part of a broader, $12 million effort by the Ford Foundation to understand and combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in the United States and Europe. It builds on the foundation’s history of supporting efforts by colleges and universities to foster more inclusive campus environments and to engage effectively with the growing racial, religious and ethnic diversity of their student bodies.

The following institutions will receive $100,000 grants:

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Barnard College, New York, NY
Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, MA
LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY
Clark University, Worcester, MA
Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
Mars Hill College, Mars Hill, NC
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Ohio University, Athens, OH
Portland Community College, Portland, OR
Queens College, Flushing, NY
San José State University, San José, CA
Trinity University, San Antonio, TX
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, AK
University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, MI
University of Missouri–Columbia, Columbia, MO
University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Yale University, New Haven, CT

The following institutions will receive $10,000 stipends (to enable them to participate in the initiative):

Bennett College for Women, Greensboro, NC
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Hollins University and the American Association of University Professors, Roanoke, VA
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts
Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH
Portland State University, Portland, OR
Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ
Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA
Spelman College, Atlanta, GA
State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
The University of Texas at Brownsville & Texas Southmost College, Brownsville, TX
Utah State University, Logan, UT

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.

Contact: Joe Voeller, Ford Foundation, (212) 573-5128

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