Confronting Extremism

Provost Announcement

2017-2018 Call for Proposals for the Provost Initiative on Understanding and Engaging with Extremism

Dear colleagues:

I am pleased to announce a call for proposals of up to $20,000 for the new Provost Initiative on Understanding and Engaging with Extremism.

This call is part of the recently announced UCI Confronting Extremism initiative, managed through the Office of Inclusive Excellence, that engages scholars and community members on pivotal topics shaping our understanding of free speech, social equity and values and promotes critical dialogues in these areas.

With this call, UCI will support pioneering faculty to raise awareness, promote reasoned discussion, enrich curricular offerings, advance pedagogical innovations, and fortify relations between the campus and the wider community around topics related to extremism.

Successful proposals will:

  • Confront the denial of our common humanity;
  • Confront the denial of science; or
  • Broaden experiential learning and critical inquiry in general education courses.

Faculty members are invited to submit proposals by noon on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.

Please review the program details and contact Douglas Haynes, vice provost for academic equity, diversity and inclusion, at if you have additional questions.


Enrique Lavernia
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

Call for Proposals

The 2017-2018 call for proposals is now closed. Please check back mid-February for results of the call

To:                 UCI Campus

Subject:        Call for Provost Initiative on Contemporary Issues: Extremism

On this eve of a national celebration of service (National Make a Difference Day), the Office of Inclusive Excellence invites faculty and campus partners to extend their plans for critical dialogues and scholarship for diversity by submitting proposals for funding as part of a Provost Initiative on Understanding and Engaging with Extremism. The deadline for submissions is noon (Pacific time) on Friday, December 15, 2017.

Initiative Background and Description

The Provost Initiative on Understanding and Engaging with Extremism (Provost Initiative) is designed to foster understanding about pressing contemporary challenges in our society.  By focusing attention on a broadly defined theme, the purpose of the initiative explores and engages with highly topical issues from a range of disciplines, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives.  The faculty collective who are involved in this initiative will raise awareness, promote reasoned discussion, enrich curricular offerings, advance pedagogical innovations, and fortify the relations between the campus and wide community served by UCI. The initiative aligns to campus strategic goals to foster excellence in teaching and learning, and to strengthen partnerships in the community to serve educational goals for public inquiry, respectful dialogues, and transformative scholarship. 

Extremism in Society

The theme for 2017-2018 is extremism.  Extremism is a term in wide use, though the meaning may vary with one’s point of view. Extremism does not exist outside of social systems, political institutions or society more generally, but, rather, within and in response to them.  It may, for example, characterize a way of thinking or a purposeful set of actions that categorically rejects a presumptively settled opinion and/or seeks to enact an alternative vision. An extremist position may also reject the authority of experts and expertise within civil society, or the legislative norms and actions, or legal processes and remedies, or other public policy outcomes of democratic institutions. The manifestations of extremist positions may take a variety of forms and platforms, ranging from silent protest and public marches, public speech and debate, to on-line forms of intimidation and violent threats, to physical harm to people and property. This initiative theme therefore seeks to understand the presence and persistence of extremism in society as well as methods and means for promoting critical inquiry and public engagement on controversial topics while honoring campus mandates for creating positive impacts on society.

Call for Proposal Priorities

    1. Confronting the Denial of Our Common Humanity. This call priority solicits faculty proposals that explore the origins and sources, causes and consequences, methods and modalities, representations and discourses, and responses to and engagement with extremism in society.  Proposers are encouraged to consider extremism in relation to the expansion or denial of civil, political and human rights to communities and individuals based on disability status, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, immigration status, nationality, race, religious beliefs and practices, and sexual orientation, among other categories of difference.
    2. Confronting the Denial of Science. This call priority focuses on the place of science in society. The pursuit of knowledge about humans, planet earth and the universe are generally regarded as defining features of modern society. Yet the authority of science is by no means universally accepted. This call seeks proposals that explore science denial in society. Proposals that address the origins and sources, causes and consequences, methods and modalities, representation and discourses, and responses to and engagement with science denial are encouraged. 
    3. Broadening Experiential Learning and Critical Inquiry in General Education Courses. This final call priority seeks to foster cultural competency, enable informed debate, and promote civil dialogue in general education courses through piloting the integration of academic and co-curricular programming. Possible participating co-curricular programs include the Olive Tree Initiative, Cultural Competency and Ally Training, Deconstructing Diversity Initiative, and New Narratives or similar campus programs. Proposals must clearly address how the proposed activity will enhance the learning environment, aligns with the learning outcomes of designated General Education course (s), and assess student learning. Proposers are encouraged to consult with the Center for Engaged Instruction.

The Provost Initiative also will provide dedicated funding to address specific priorities through existing research and initiatives as well as experiential learning opportunities for UCI students.

The projects funded by the Provost Initiative aim to:

  • Heighten the appreciation of the sources and consequences of local, national and global expressions of extremism;
  • Equip UCI students with tools for understanding with extremism, and
  • Advance the reputation of the campus as a center for engaging with and addressing the fault lines of conflict in society.

The initiative includes three priorities.  Submitted proposals from eligible faculty must focus on one of the priority areas.  Funding provided to selected awardees for the 2017-2018 cycle may be used to support research and creative activities, scholarly conferences and workshops, new course development and enhancements to existing courses, and community engagement projects with local, regional and national organizations.  Special consideration will be given to those proposals that approach the chosen theme through inter-school and intra-school collaborations, or interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary vantage points, or through partnerships with research centers and/or the UCI libraries.  Regardless of the type of funding requested, proposals must provide a detailed plan for the public dissemination of the funded activity.


Full-time faculty members of the UCI Academic Senate are eligible to submit proposals for consideration.  UCI Academic Senate faculty members include faculty with designations as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, Lecturer (SOE/PSOE), and In-Residence series or in Clinical _/X series.

Project Team Leadership

With a focus looking inward to campus issues and outward to community interests, the Provost Initiative will fund project leaders who are deft at working with multiple constituencies on campus and community concerns.

To this end, Principal Investigators are expected to:

  • Propose activities working in concert with diverse team colleagues or aligning with campus and community partnerships.
  • Demonstrate strong stewardship and accountability of all funds used by submitting summative Use Reports. A Use Report template will be provided to awardees.
  • Partner with OIE to raise awareness about the funded activity (e.g., allow use of descriptions and relevant text in OIE promotions).
  • Participate in one recorded interview.
  • Provide a document (e.g., study guide) to promote public understanding about the funded project topic for public information.

Proposal Deadline

Proposals must be submitted online by noon (Pacific time) on Friday, December 15, 2017.

Grant awardees will be notified no later than Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Project Funding

The Provost Initiative will provide a maximum of up to $20,000 per project for qualifying activities to be completed and funding to be expended by January 31, 2019.  Funded awardees must submit a final project Use Report to the Office of Inclusive Excellence by March 15, 2019.

Grant awardees will be notified no later than Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Proposal Submission Guidance

Proposals for consideration must be submitted online at: by noon (Pacific time) on Friday, December 15, 2017.

Proposals should provide concise yet detailed content for reviewers to understand:

  • Project Description – includes nature of the problem, project rationale, and project goals and objectives,
  • Project Plan – includes rationale for proposed project, description of project methods, target audience and related activities and milestones to inform leadership team,
  • Budget and Budget Narrative for funds requested,
  • Dissemination Plan – plans to promote the project during the project’s first year and any intents or expectations for promotion beyond Year 1,
  • Assessment Plan – specifically, how will the Principal Investigator(s) judge success and impact related to project outcomes?
  • Overall Project Significance – How does this project meet a critical need described by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, and by the UCI Strategic Plan, or beyond?

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by students, staff, faculty, and community members who are part of the Office of Inclusive Excellence Advisory Committee.  Competitive proposals will be recommended to the Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and to Provost Enrique Lavernia for final selections.

Competitive proposals will concisely and comprehensively address the following questions:

  • Project Description – How is the proposed topic and activity related to the selected priority area? In what ways will the proposed activity address significant needs or issues and why is it important? How does the proposed approach differ from past approaches to address the need or issue of interest and what informs that proposed approaches will result in intended outcomes? What are the major goals and objectives to be pursued?
  • Project Plan – What is the scope of the proposed project and what activities are planned? What milestones must be met to ensure that the project will attain expected outcomes?
  • Budget and Budget Narrative – What expenses will be incurred to complete the proposed project during the anticipated timeline? How are budget estimated derived and how will Principal Investigator(s) ensure accountability and good stewardship within University of California policies and procedures?
  • Dissemination Plan – What products, knowledge, or other outcomes will result from proposed activities and how will they be communicated and shared during the proposed project’s first year? What other strategies and activities are planned to communicate results achieved during Year 1?
  • Assessment Plan – How is the project team evaluating the effects and other outcomes related to proposed activities? What measures, indicators, and other information will be analyzed to identify and/or confirm impact and effectiveness of the formative and summative evidence and outcomes? What has been changed because of the completed project, how do we know that change occurred, and why is this change significant?

Questions and Concerns

Please direct any questions and concerns to the Office of Inclusive Excellence at:


If you are unable to access the application, it is also available here.

Award Use Report

We ask you to please complete the Use Report available at:

PI Award Use Report due 3.15.19

2018 Awarded Projects

Project leads will describe their projects and why they are confronting extremism, follow along on social media as these videos are released!

Bridging the Gap between Medical and Nursing Education and the LGBT+ Community: Efforts to Improve Healthcare Delivery through Dialogue, Education and Understanding
Project Lead: Ellena Peterson and Terrance Mayes
School of Medicine

Summary: The relationship between the medical and LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, other gender or sexual identity) communities has only recently begun to recover from a history defined by fear and stigmatization. In a 2015 national study of almost 30,000 transgender individuals nationwide, 33% reported experiences of discrimination by healthcare teams, ranging from denial of services to outright physical and verbal abuse. Other gender and sexual minorities are known to face similar barriers, and consequently face poorer health outcomes as compared to the broader U.S. population. The overarching goal of this proposal is to address these issues within the Schools of Medicine and Nursing at UCI by attempting to close the knowledge and clinical skills gap related to the LGBT+ community that presently exists in medical education.
The four specific aims of this project are:

1. to longitudinally expand the curriculum of the medical and nursing schools’ foci on LGBT+ health throughout all years of training;
2. to enhance collaboration with LGBT+ local community members and health advocates;
3. to implement quantitative assessments to measure changes and progress in medical and nursing student clinical competence in caring for LGBT+ individuals; and
4. to broaden dissemination and visibility of the educational activities through multimedia documentation. Using this approach, we aim to better educate the next generation of health care providers in order to impart a broader, culturally competent tool set to more effectively administer health care to the LGBT+ population.

Watch Video

Challenging Liberal Order: Populist Politics from the Nazis to Today
Project Lead: David Tse-Chien Pan
School of Humanities

Summary: Opposition to extremism must involve in the first place an affirmation of the liberal ideas that ground our democratic order. But the rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic made clear that it is insufficient to simply insist on liberal principles in the face of illiberal political movements. With broad sections of the population in support of populism today, it would also be necessary to make distinctions between different positions. In the first place, we would have to distinguish between the white supremacist fringe – the truly extremist right – from a broader right-wing movement that is not necessarily racist, but does question the current hierarchies that structure our political and economic order. If extremism questions the existing order, it might be related to a legitimate opposition to the way that power is distributed in our society. If, in challenging extremism, we were to shut down such a discussion, we would run the risk of affirming and cementing hierarchical structures that may indeed need to be reformed. Confronting extremism then requires both careful self-examination and an ability to differentiate between related positions. Accordingly, we have organized a workshop, public forum, and a book publication that will: 1) examine the recent rise of right-wing political movements in Germany and the U.S. in light of the historical experiences of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and 2) evaluate constitutional structures in order to better understand the basis for stability as well as the character of potential threats.

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Civic Education in Polarized Times
Project Lead: Sara Wallace Goodman
School of Social Sciences

Summary: We live in polarized times, where the sense of “us versus them” is omnipresent. As Americans retrench into ideological and partisan silos – reading and engaging only with people of similar views – they simultaneously avoid cross-partisan engagement. But beyond avoidance, polarization also fosters antipathy, where one side does not merely disagree but dislikes and distrusts the other. This condition presents a democratic problem for two reasons. First, extreme partisanship erodes the social cohesion necessary for community development and democratic quality. And, second, current education practices are not equipping young adults to civically participate in this polarized political environment, much less ameliorate it. The current U.S. civic education curriculum emphasizes history, trivia, and commitments to symbols and values, not engagement or other behavior that could build the bridges necessary to foster shared group identity and, therefore, shared group goals.

This project places civic education at the center of analysis to ask the following: How can we prepare young adults for the challenges of contemporary citizenship? Can we construct a common political identity through civic education that transcends various types of particular identities? Can a new civic curriculum – focused not on facts but behavior – “move the needle” of polarization? This project conducts a series of survey experiments to assess the effects of a skills-based (media literacy and evidence-based argumentation) and value-driven (empathy and tolerance cues) civic curriculum across a variety of group settings. This project contributes to a larger conversation on how to construct an engaged citizenry, with clear policy implications for a curriculum overhaul. Preparing citizens for a lifetime of civic participation is a responsibility that should not be taken for granted, because the stakes for democracy in an age of creeping authoritarianism and illiberal populism could not be higher.

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Digital Extremism: Understanding and Confronting the Alt-right’s Digital Toolkit
Project Lead: William Maurer and Paul Dourish
School of Social Sciences

Summary: Recent elections in western industrialized democracies have been marred by accusations of interference by concerted social media campaigns that targeted specific demographic categories of voters with disinformation and propaganda. Almost overnight, political advisors, scholars, data analysis professionals, and the social media platforms themselves realized they needed a crash course in the use and abuse of the marriage between predictive analytics and digital content. Through a series of activities and programs on campus featuring a noted expert in digital media manipulation; a graduate student workshop to create curricular modules; a grant-writing workshop; and the development of a new undergraduate course on digital media manipulation, we will give students the tools which they need to understand how digital disinformation is created and spreads online, to inoculate themselves against its effects, and ultimately to encourage a responsible digital civics for the social, mobile, always-online connected world in which everything – including our political discourse – now lives.

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Interrogating the Character and Persistence of Science Denialism The Case of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
Project Lead: David Snow and Colin Bernatzky
School of Social Sciences

Summary: Skepticism about science, ranging from doubts about its relevance to certain issues to outright denial of its veracity, has received considerable attention in the popular media in recent years The March 2015 National Geographic cover story on the war on science, for example, referenced claims that “climate change does not exist”, “evolution never happened”, “the moon landing was fake”, “vaccinations can lead to autism”, and “genetically modified food is evil”. Of the various questions that might be asked about this widely-noted scientific skepticism and/or denialism, we propose to examine two of them. First, is this skepticism/denialism generalized across science or is it domain- or issue-specific? That is, does the skepticism apply to all applications of science, and is thus generalizable, or does it more typically apply to specific issues, such as evolution, or climate change, or vaccination? And second, how do we account for the maintenance/persistence of skeptical and denialist beliefs in science in the face of countervailing evidence? The answers to both questions hold important implications for addressing and combatting science denialism/skepticism. We propose to interrogate these two overlapping questions empirically by conducting a field study (e.g., ethnography and interviewing) of vaccine skepticism as manifested in the anti-vaccine movement in Southern California.

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Relativism and Skepticism: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
Project Lead: Duncan Pritchard
School of Humanities

Summary: The aim of this project is to develop two MOOCs (= Massive Open Online Courses) on the topics of ‘Relativism’ and ‘Skepticism.’ The MOOCs will confront some of the core intellectual issues that we believe lie behind some recent worrying trends in public life, and which we think leads to extremism, such as the growth in conspiracy theories and fake news, the denial of climate change (and the rejection of the authority of scientific expertise that goes with it), and the sometimes toxic and personal nature of political debate. We believe that at the root of these societal challenges are core epistemological issues. What is the status of relativism: to what extent is the truth ‘objective’, as opposed to being relative to certain ‘subjective’ or contingent factors, such as social structure? And what is the proper scope of skepticism: when is it virtuous, and when does it constitute a vice? The MOOCs will bring together an interdisciplinary team of academics from across UCI to engage with these ideas in an accessible manner, and will thus serve to showcase the distinctive kind of interdisciplinary research that UCI does to a worldwide audience. Finally, we will screen these MOOCs at special campus-wide events alongside a panel discussion, and we will also use the courses for outreach in local high schools.

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STEM Cell Research and Applications: Understanding and Confronting Science Denial
Project Lead: Aileen Anderson
School of Medicine

Summary: Opponents of fetal and embryonic stem cell research have promulgated arguments that deny scientific research. Mischaracterization of stem cell functions has extended to a proliferation of clinics offering unregulated and unproven therapies utilizing “stem cells” of doubtful provenance and unproven efficacy. This represents a denial of the importance of evidence-based medical science that is critical to confront in public policy and education. The UCI Stem Cell Research Center has a history of sponsoring lectures, discussion panels, and symposia on a wide range of ethics and policy issues, including presentations by religious scholars, journalists, bioethicists who have studied topics from eugenics to unregulated and unapproved stem cell “therapies”. For the Provost’s Initiative on Understanding and Confronting Extremism, we will organize two major activities. First, we will provide a program to educate our academic community about the nature of controversies in stem cell research and evidence-based science, as well as the tactics of extremists in these areas. Second, we will offer a workshop to develop student/faculty skills in communicating with the public about stem cell research and evidence-based science in the face of denialism.

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The Virtuous Table
Project Lead: Julia Lupton and Yong Chen
School of Humanities

Summary: Everyone eats. Every culture expresses its vision of humanity and its relation to place and time through the foods its people grow, prepare, consume, and share. By eating meals from around the world in a welcoming environment, students can explore other outlooks, histories, and beliefs while also affirming what we share as human beings who need sustenance, shelter, and sociability in order to survive and flourish. Students enrolled in Professor Yong Chen’s “What to Eat” course (History F15; Fall 2018) will get first access to these specially themed and curated meals at the ARC Test Kitchen. Events will feature UCI’s new faculty in global religions, including Simcha Gross (Persian and Jewish Studies) and Elizabeth Tinsley (Buddhist Studies). We will also host international food writer and celebrity chef Simon Majumdar on October 8. Short presentations before and during each meal will feature the virtues cultivated in the religious tradition at hand, with an emphasis on virtues that promote an idea of common humanity through principles of tolerance, respect, hospitality, stewardship, justice, and care for the other. Students will also have an opportunity to participate in communal food preparation the day before each event. In the spring, we are planning a follow up event during International Student Week featuring the art of the taco, with Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA and Steven Alvarez (expert on the Korean taco).

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