University of Missouri Promoting Pluralism and Academic Freedom

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Type: Program

Status: Launched in 2006

Source File: http://difficultdialogues.missouri.edu/

Description:

The MU Difficult Dialogues program is designed to stimulate rigorous intellectual inquiry, and to empower students to express opposing views respectfully and in the spirit of open-mindedness.

Program activities provide an environment in which differing views are defended, heard, and considered by those who hold conflicting ideas and values across cultures.

The activities focus on teaching and reinforcing knowledge, skills, and awareness of diversity issues in higher education related to race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious literacy that encourage difficult dialogues on important, challenging topics and are essential to democratic citizenship in an increasingly diverse society.

An interdisciplinary group implemented a program that draws on specific strengths represented at MU: the top-ranked Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution (CSDR); Center for Religion, the Professions, and the Public; faculty leadership in the Carnegie/American Association of Higher Education cluster on the use of interactive theater to address multicultural issues; and Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative.

The University of Missouri is one of only a handful of institutions to receive renewal grants from the Difficult Dialogues Initiative. This program began at MU in 2006. Phase I of the program started in the two-year period of 2006-2007. This phase was designed (a) to assist its participants to understand some of the controversial and divisive issues in the student body; (b) teach them how to engage their students in these difficult dialogues; and (c) to enhance the learners’ self-efficacy and confidence in facilitating the discussions. Phase II of the MU Difficult Dialogues Program will (a) sustain our campus-wide faculty development program, and (b) provide a summer institute for other universities to develop difficult dialogues programs on their campuses.

Since 2006, the University of Missouri has received $200,000 in grants from the Ford Foundation to develop a project which promotes academic freedom and constructive dialogues on campus.

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