Confronting Extremism as a Fundamental Responsibility for Citizenship
|Dear Campus Community,
Two years ago and a month after the public display of racism and violent extremism in Charlottesville, Virginia, UCI launched the Confronting Extremism initiative. The purpose of the initiative was to channel our research, teaching and service mission to better understand extremism and to use these insights to inform how to respond as individuals and as a community. Unfortunately, this imperative has only grown more pressing with time. As Reverend Jessie Jackson Jr., declared during his campus visit in September 2017, Charlottesville was not an exception, but a "defining moment for America."
Mass shootings — many being motivated by white nationalism, white supremacy, and white power among other extremist ideologies — have impacted far too many communities over the past two years. The venues may differ but the carnage and trauma is all too familiar. A shopping center in El Paso, Texas; an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio; a food festival in Gilroy, California; and synagogues in Poway, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These horrific incidents only capture a small fraction of crimes against property, acts of intimidation, and the proliferation of online efforts to promote these ideologies and to recruit and mobilize individuals to use terror.
In today's world, extremism is woven into the fabric of our lives and our society whether we like it or not. The scale and scope of extremism poses a threat to our civic institutions, democratic values and our multi-cultural society. Understanding extremism is now a fundamental responsibility for citizenship in the 21st century.
For these reasons, Confronting Extremism is no longer a time-bound initiative, it has evolved into a dedicated campus-wide program. While the initiative responded to an event, the program is designed to fortify our resilience as a campus community while advancing our commitment to inclusive excellence. The Confronting Extremism program will consist of three broad areas, including:
1. Understanding extremism – through a focus on harnessing our research and teaching mission through funded research activity, course development and community engagement.
2. Tools for Change – an online catalogue of recorded lectures and presentations as well as on-demand courses. The latter includes Understanding the Alt-Right's Digital Toolkit (Dean and Professor Bill Maurer) and Bringing Intellectual Virtues into the UCI curriculum (Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Duncan Prichard).
3. Research updates and news – scheduled updates on faculty research and aggregated reports from a range of news sources.
The coming academic year will include a suite of Confronting Extremism calls, programs and events, including:
• September 21: Call for Proposals on Domestic Terrorism. The purpose of the call is to understand the meaning and use of violence and other forms of intimidation to advance political purpose or objectives.
• October 23: A conversational debate with New York Times Columnists Michelle Goldberg and Bret Stephens on the relation of anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism.
• November 19: Confronting Extremism Talks: Presentations by faculty Funded Researchers
Now more than ever, it is not enough to expect equity individually without defending it for others. It is not enough to support diversity without understanding and engaging with our diverse communities. It is not enough to practice inclusion if others are excluded. It is not enough to defend free speech without using it to advance inclusive excellence.
My hope is that our campus principles of inclusive excellence can provide a source of resilience and affirmation for our community. Each day thousands of faculty, students and staff come to UCI with the aspiration of creating and sustaining a campus community where all expect equity, support diversity, practice inclusion and honor free speech.
Douglas M. Haynes