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The 2016 collegiate entering class was the most polarized cohort in the 51-year history of the Higher Education Research Institute’s freshman survey.  The divisions we see on college campuses mirror the extreme polarization evident in many national arenas – during the 2016 presidential election, on Fox News and MSNBC, by the congressman who yelled “You lie!” at a U.S. president, and in many other deviations from civil, constructive discourse, most recently in the events in Charlottesville.

It is difficult to simultaneously protect free speech and promote expression of multiple points of view while also creating space where students, faculty, staff, and guests feel safe and included. A core mission of Tufts, and most other colleges and universities, is to develop students’ skills to grapple with myriad ideas and engage in informed and civil discussion and debate on issues on which they may disagree profoundly. We succeed frequently, but we know we must work actively to do even better.

The Bridging Differences Initiative launched in the fall of 2017 with the goal of developing a strategy that will position Tufts to lead nationally and internationally in supporting and developing structures, processes, and skills to engage constructively across differences. Led by a task force comprised of a cross section of students, faculty, and staff from across the University, the initiative will draw on the best research and practices from Tufts, other universities, the military, non-profits, government, the private sector, faith communities, and any other promising models.