Difficult Dialogues IIDifficult Dialogues logo

  Creating the Future


Conversation, Understanding and the Freedom to Learn


Difficult Dialogues is a program designed to promote academic freedom and religious, cultural, and political pluralism. The University of California, Irvine’s effort is part of the Ford Foundation’s multi-year initiative to engage and prepare students for constructive engage with difficult and sensitive topics. Launched by the Ford Foundation in 2005, Difficult Dialogues is committed to protecting academic freedom across the country.


UC Irvine was one of 27 higher education institutions funded by the Ford Foundation for initial projects that ran for a period of two year from 2006 until 2008. UC Irvine is one of the 16 original campuses have received support to continue their work through 2010.



As part of this initiative, three new courses were designed to educate students about contemporary issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, traditions of religious conflict and religious tolerance, and peace building. For the first course, faculty in religious studies and in conflict resolution jointly developed the ‘Religious Diversity and Conflict’ course. The second course was a two-quarter seminar entitled ‘Imagining the Future.’ The third course, for upper-division students, is called ‘Politics and Ethics of Difference.’ There were two years of lectures, an art exhibit, student leadership training and other public events designed to heighten awareness of religious and ethnic conflict, peace-building techniques, and successful collaborations that have grown out of situations once dominated by conflict.