In response to the unprecedented acceleration of forced migration throughout the world due to war, political/ethnic/religious persecution, and poverty, Bard (Annandale and Berlin), Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, and Vassar colleges joined forces in early 2016 to found the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education (CFMDE).
The consortium is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
While governments, NGOs, religious relief agencies, and tech innovators across the globe have devised an array of specific—and sometimes conflicting—responses to forced migration, we came together because we believe that institutions of higher learning can and must have a different, but equally vital, focus. Given the unresolved (and interrelated) challenges of climate change, global inequality, technological innovation, and war, forced migration will continue to increase and its implications, we believe, will dominate global politics as well as domestic debates for decades to come. As institutions of higher learning we are uniquely positioned to draw on our robust local, national, and international educational and cultural networks, as well as our dedicated and extensive alumnae/i, bases to prepare our students for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of forced migration and displacement. Indeed, the coming era of human movement will, without doubt, challenge our existing national and global institutions, and our students must be able to respond to these challenges with intelligence, compassion, and ingenuity.
Our institutions are dedicated to the development and sustainability of learning initiatives, conferences, lecture series, teaching labs at the core of which lies an innovative shared curriculum in Forced Migration across four campuses. The Consortium aims to create a historically, geographically, and disciplinarily comprehensive understanding of forced migration, one of the great political and ethical issues of the present day. The program seeks to center the knowledge of forced migrants and inculcate in students the habit of working toward just, democratic, and responsive solutions. It also aims to connect the global and the local by forging asymmetrical co-operation both in our own communities and abroad and to develop our public interfaces in order to scale outward the impact of our work.
Notwithstanding the rise in xenophobic nationalism across the globe, exemplified by the rhetoric of closing borders in some cases and building walls in others, institutions such as ours can and must model the liberal arts values and commitments for which we stand. Teaching and defending these values is essential at a time when democracy, diversity, and tolerance are challenged worldwide. Moreover, we are committed to the notion that such teaching must be informed and augmented by engagement (practice) with institutions and individuals affected by forced migration, both in our local communities and beyond. Members of our Consortium have stepped up to such challenges in the past by hosting scholars and students from Nazi Germany and Nazi‐occupied Europe; aiding Hungarians fleeing Soviet persecution after the 1956 Revolution, and welcoming Soviet Jews fleeing anti‐Semitism during the 1980s.