Assessing New Anti-Terrorism Policies

The View from the Other Side of the Desk

Alison R. Bernstein

As one of the three vice presidents of the Ford Foundation who issued the January 8, 2004 memo, I am fascinated and impressed by Ruby's description of Creative Capital's process for dealing with the memo. She and her colleagues correctly understood that Ford was not operating in a vacuum. We were responding to new Federal legislation that required us to review our own grantmaking and monitoring processes to insure that they conform to the new law. Importantly, we chose to make our values explicit in the memo rather than repeat the exact language of the legislation. We did so to reinforce the point that this was our approach as a private foundation. We claim the right "not to fund groups that promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state." But crucially, we also assert the right of the Foundation to support civil liberties organizations whose precise mission is to protect the legal rights of individuals to be bigots or terrorists.

In declaring our set of values, we never meant to challenge the rights and responsibilities of artists, intellectuals, activists, and others to express their views, regardless of how controversial or politically unpopular they may be. The vast majority of our grantees, like Creative Capital, understood this and signed our new grant letter. A few organizations, however, particularly research universities in the United States, raised questions. We took the questions seriously, using this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression, including academic freedom, and on that basis the universities signed the grant letter.

Looking back, I regard all these efforts to clarify our values as donors and grantees as a healthy process—it challenged us to revisit our core missions and what we stand for.

Alison R. Bernstein, Vice President for the Knowledge, Creativity
and Freedom Program, The Ford Foundation