Difficult Dialogues logoThe Center for Humanities & the Arts (CHA) and CU Libraries have co-hosted the event series Difficult Dialogues semi-annually since 2019. Starting in 2022, Grace Commons Church has been a partner for every Fall Difficult Dialogues event. 

Difficult Dialogue events are panel conversations that bring together people to discuss challenging issues from their own perspectives. The topics chosen for each event are important, but can be difficult to discuss. This event offers a space to have these tough conversations. We actively choose not to record Difficult Dialogues events, given the sensitive nature of topics and questions that may be asked in response to and during the event.

We are committed to fostering productive dialogues in the hope that minds and hearts might expand and that mutual respect, understanding, and perhaps self-examination can be fostered by meeting with and listening to each other respectfully. These dialogues are meant to allow us to see each other as human. If you are going to participate, the goal is to develop the capacity of talking about hard issues with as much care for self and others as possible.

Upcoming Difficult Dialogues:


    Past Difficult Dialogues:

    Difficult Dialogue: Reparations
    March 20, 2024, 12:30pm - 1:45pm at CASE E390, Center for Teaching & Learning
    University Libraries Resources Guide: https://libguides.colorado.edu/ddreparations

    How do we repair harm, when the harm is on a national scale?  For the March 2024 Difficult Dialogue topic, we will consider how various nations have provided reparations for systemic harm and how we can hold nations, governments, and communities accountable for it. While the US government has made reparations to Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, there are still some groups that have not received any form of restitution, such as to enslaved people taken from African nations or to Indigenous nations for stolen land. Other countries have provided restitution for genocide, such as the German government and businesses to survivors of the Holocaust and the Rwandan government to Tutsi survivors of the 1994 genocide. Our panelists will discuss how we as individuals can encourage and support various types of reparations for harmed communities.

    How to Have Difficult Conversations with Friends and Loved Ones—including talking about Gaza and Israel
    March 27, 2024, 6pm - 7pm at Community House - Rocky Mountain Climbers Club

    Difficult Dialogues: Community Conversations series (partnered with Colorado Chautauqua and their Voices at Chautauqua series)
    Our third Difficult Dialogue Conversation takes up the topic of how to have difficult conversations with people you care about but may disagree with. Our facilitators, Jennifer Ho and Ami Dayan, believe it is possible to have productive conversations about controversial subjects, so long as all parties enter into the conversation with a sincere willingness to listen and learn rather than simply argue to persuade someone to their point of view. Join us to practice having hard conversations, including on the topic of Gaza and Israel.

    Frontier of Free Speech: Are There Boundaries?
    February 28, 2024, 6pm - 7pm at Community House - Rocky Mountain Climbers Club

    Difficult Dialogues: Community Conversations series (partnered with Colorado Chautauqua and their Voices at Chautauqua series)
    For this second event in the series, we are hosting a community conversation about the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Are there boundaries to what speech can and should be shared publicly? Are there costs to free speech? Unlike past Difficult Dialogues panel events, the Community Conversations series will be small group discussions, limited to 40 individuals. Co-facilitators for this evening include: Michele Moses, Professor and Vice Provost, CU Boulder and Patrick O’Rourke, COO & adjunct law professor, CU Boulder.

    Why Don't You Think Like I Do? Navigating the Space Between Us
    January 31, 2024, 6pm - 7pm at Community House - Rocky Mountain Climbers Club
    Difficult Dialogues: Community Conversations series (partnered with Colorado Chautauqua and their Voices at Chautauqua series)
    ​As we begin 2024, the CHA and Colorado Chautauqua are hosting a community conversation about how we form opinions, and what happens when we confront opposing views. Unlike past Difficult Dialogues panel events, the Community Conversations series will be small group discussions, limited to 40 individuals. Co-facilitators for this evening include: Karen Ashcraft, Professor of Communication and Professor Jennifer Ho, CHA Director.

    Difficult Dialogue: Antisemitism and Being Jewish in the US
    September 13, 2023, 7pm - 8:30pm at Grace Commons Church
    University Libraries Resources Guide: https://libguides.colorado.edu/antisemitism 

    This panel discussion focused on the rise of antisemitism in the last decade — a rise that some might say has never disappeared and has resurfaced with events like the march on Charlottesville, the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, and recent comments by celebrities. It is hard to know how to talk about antisemitism, and this difficult dialogue engaged with multiple topics as well as what it means to be Jewish today, especially in a multi-religious and multi-racial space such as Boulder county. Among the questions our panelists pondered was: “How does antisemitism manifest in our communities today?", "Are Jews white?", "How is antisemitism different from or similar to to other forms of racism, bias, exclusion, and discrimination?", "Is criticism of Israel antisemitic?"

    Difficult Dialogue: Abortion
    March 22, 2023, 12pm - 1pm MT on Zoom (virtual)
    University Libraries Resources Guide: https://libguides.colorado.edu/abortiondd

    In 2022, we witnessed the end to fifty years of legal protections for the right to abortion care as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court concluded that the constitution does not protect a right to abortion and returned the right of states to regulate abortion. Months after the case, several states have invoked total or near-total bans on abortion, the devastating social, political, and economic impacts of which we are only beginning to understand. Millions of citizens have lost access to abortion care and those already facing discriminatory barriers are disproportionately disadvantaged by the loss of this fundamental right. This panel featured individuals discussing how talking about abortion can be difficult, and how the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade makes conversation about this topic even more fraught. This was not a debate about being pro-life or pro-choice; this event was simply to discuss the difficulty of talking about abortion.

    Difficult Dialogue: Being Black in Boulder & "This is [Not] Who We Are" Film Screening
    October 27, 2022, 5:45pm - 9pm at Grace Commons Church
    University Libraries Resources Guide
    "This is (Not) Who We Are" is a documentary film exploring the gap between Boulder's progressive self-image and the lived experiences of its Black citizens. The film braids the lived experiences of Black characters ranging in age from 12 to 78. Some stories are searing, while others are hopeful. The film seeks to open a space for dialogue among Boulderites and about cities like Boulder, overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and conflicted about issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. After the film screening, we hosted a group of panelists to lead a discussion about issues of race, class, and the community. 

    Difficult Dialogue: Making Mistakes, Making Amends
    January 25, 2022, 12:30pm MT on Zoom (Virtual)
    The Spring 2022 Difficult Dialogues saught to address what it means to make a mistake and then to repair the harm (unintentional or intentional) that happens when we make mistakes with our friends, peers, co-workers, family, or on social media. We sometimes use an expression that may be anti-trans, ableist, racially insensitive, sexist— sometimes without knowing or understanding. We may do things that cause others harm, and we don’t understand what’s happening until we get called out. So what do we do when we get called out? How do we rectify the harm and move forward? This event featured Patricia Gonzalez, Assistant Dean for Inclusive Practices; Jessica Ladd-Webert, Director of the Office of Victim Assistance; and Elias Sacks, Director of the Program in Jewish Studies. The event was moderated by Tyler Keyworth, Assistant Director of Restorative Justice & Conflict Resolution.

    Difficult Dialogue: Saying No, Slowing Down
    Fall 2021
    The Fall 2021 Difficult Dialogues centered around holding space for saying no to holding a formal event and practicing the theme of slowing down by simply acknowledging the difficulty of telling someone that you are too exhausted to take on additional labor and to also take time to slow down and take time for oneself.

    Difficult Dialogue: Power
    February 10th, 2021, 12pm MT on Zoom (Virtual)

    This event examined the different ways that power impacts the lives of people at CU Boulder and the different types of power dynamics that affect us – that make it hard to advocate for various issues and that are often difficult to talk about. The panelists for this event included Gwendalynn Roebke, undergraduate student; Sarah Fahmy, graduate student; Chantal Baca, staff, and Erika Randall, chair and professor. The moderator was Janet Ruppert, who was also a graduate student.

    Difficult Dialogue: Unpacking Whiteness
    September 9, 2020, 12pm MT on Zoom (Virtual)

    What is “whiteness,” and how do concepts like “white privilege” and “white supremacy” contribute to anti-Black racism and systemic racism? Where do we see whiteness on campus (what does it mean to say that CU Boulder is “so white”)? How can we engage the CU Boulder community about these issues, and how can white people address and combat white privilege and white supremacy in our classrooms, our departments, and the campus at large? Our faculty panelists (who all identify as white) discussed how they “unpack whiteness” and what that phrase means to them in their efforts to be anti-racism educators and allies. This event featured Max Boykoff from Environmental Studies, Sam Flaxman from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Bethy Leonardi from Education, and Phaedra Pezzullo from Communication.

    Difficult Dialogue: How to Talk About Race
    March 3, 2019, 12pm - 1pm at Norlin Library E260 classroom (2nd floor)

    This event featured a panel of specialists who shared how they talk about race, especially focusing on how to talk about race in and out of the classroom and how to respond to issues of racism when they impact our campus community (such as the anti-black incident earlier in Fall 2018). John-Michael Rivera (Writing Program) moderated the discussion with Sam Flaxmann (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Tiara Na’puti (Communication), and Celeste Montoya (Women and Gender Studies).