Religion and politics will be the first topic up for discussion this year by a new collaborative effort between Dartmouth's interdisciplinary centers. The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, the William Jewett Tucker Foundation, the Ethics Institute, the Fannie and Alan Leslie Center for the Humanities, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning have joined forces to address key issues that cut across the disciplines. This new collaboration, known as The Dartmouth Centers Forum, "seeks to promote an open, campus-wide dialogue on complex issues of the day, beginning with religion and politics," said Dickey Center Director, Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz. "The intermingling of religion and politics in recent times," he noted, "both in the U.S. and abroad, raises basic questions about democracy, civil and human rights, modernity, religious freedom and the separation of church and state."
The first event of the series was a speech on academic freedom by Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University and former Dartmouth Provost. Bollinger was invited to campus by the Ethics Institute as the fall 2005 Dorsett Fellow, a program established in honor of Burt N. Dorsett '53 and intended to support a visiting Fellowship Program in applied and professional ethics.
The Centers are research and extracurricular resources for the campus, and they provide support and funding for a wide variety of public service projects and scholarly collaborations. In addition to serving as a resource for faculty, the Centers play a major role in stimulating and supporting undergraduate civic engagement.
While the Centers have distinct missions that range from politics to community service to research, they share a common interest in broadening students' horizons through innovative programming. And, explained Christianne Hardy Wohlforth, Dickey Center Associate for Program Development, the heterogeneity is what makes the collaboration so significant. "By working together, we're able to provide a common framework for what everyone is doing well," she said.
Although all six Centers will continue to pursue their missions individually, the Forum provides an opportunity for programming involving religion and politics to be coordinated using shared resources.
The choice of religion and politics as the subject of the 2005-2006 Forum was arrived at by consensus among the Centers' directors and leadership. According to Wohlforth, the objective is to encourage open dialogue on sensitive issues. The goal of the collaboration, she said, "is to facilitate an environment of inclusion."
The Forum was already in the planning stages when organizers learned of a Ford Foundation initiative, "Difficult Dialogues." The initiative seeks to promote religious, cultural and political pluralism, as well as academic freedom by supporting programs and projects on campuses that promote greater dialogue around issues of religious and cultural diversity. The Forum has been included among 136 finalists invited to submit full proposals to the Ford Foundation for funding. Irrespective of the outcome, the six Centers will proceed with their plans. The Ford Foundation support, if awarded, will serve to enhance the Forum.
By GENEVIEVE HAAS
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Last Updated: 5/30/08