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 will develop a strategy for positioning Tufts to lead nationally and internationally in supporting and developing structures, processes, and skills for students, faculty, and staff to engage constructively across differences. It will draw on the best research and practice from Tufts, other universities, the military, non-profits, government, the private sector, faith communities, and any other promising models.
A task force of students, faculty, and staff will launch in the fall. For now, we welcome suggestions for promising models for the group to consider. Thank you for being part of this effort.
We would appreciate your input. Please provide any information about programs that you are currently engaged in, or are aware of in terms of campus programming that may help guide our work. We will be reaching out to members of the community; if you are willing to chat with a task force member please provide your contact information.