FAQ's About the Boniuk Institute
1. What are the central criteria for the Boniuk Institute to sponsor an event or speaker?
We sponsor events that offer a promise of support for our mission, which is to understand and facilitate the conditions that lead to peaceful coexistence among people of different faith traditions. This mission includes an educational component that calls for engagement with our students, with people in the larger Houston area, and with people throughout the world via our web-based materials. Generally, we seek speakers who have something to share – a hypothesis, analysis, experience, perspective, etc. – that is of value to the quest for coexistence.
The Boniuk Institute welcomes ideas for events and projects from community organizations and individuals who share our mission. We regret that we can undertake only a small fraction of the projects that are suggested to us. To propose an event or project for our consideration, please complete this form: Project Request Form. Please do not use this form to request co-sponsorship of an event or speaker.
2. Does the Boniuk Institute prefer speakers who represent the Institute’s political or religious positions?
No. The Boniuk Institute is housed at a secular research university and does not advocate specific political or religious positions. For example, the Institute does not advocate a specific political position on conflicts in the Middle East, Kashmir, Sri Lanka or other places. Nor does the Institute have a position on, for example, what or who defines “true” Christianity, “true” Islam, or other such questions of a religious or theological nature.
The views expressed by speakers we sponsor or co-sponsor are not necessarily those of any of the Boniuk Institute staff, anyone at Rice, or any of our affiliates. The simple fact of our sponsorship or co-sponsorship does not indicate our agreement with a stated perspective.
3. Why do you host controversial speakers who sometimes upset people?
We do not deliberately seek speakers who will provoke people or whose comments will cause upset. More often than not, however, someone will strongly disagree with, be offended by, or be upset with the comments of a speaker.
As an Institute housed at a research university, we are committed to the free expression of ideas in a spirit of honest inquiry and respectful exchange. Short of calls for violence against individuals or groups or gratuitous or discriminatory insults, ideas across the political and religious spectra may be expressed, even very controversial ones that some may find very upsetting. The speakers we sponsor or co-sponsor are found on all both sides of social, religious, or political divides. Over time, we present speakers from many different perspectives. We do not seek to privilege any one perspective or position.
Because of our deep commitment to the free exchange of ideas and our neutrality on religious and political issues, our parameters for sponsorship are wider than those of other organizations with discernable social, political or religious agendas. Moreover, our parameters are often wider than those of many individuals. In both instances, our speakers may present views far outside the “comfort zone” of many individuals and groups.
We invite all interested parties to attend our programs so as to challenge those ideas that they find objectionable. The public exchange and contestation of ideas contributes to the value of our programs and is, we believe, a value to society at large. It is also a prerequisite for peaceful coexistence. We will never learn to live with our differences if we do not openly confront them.
4. Do you only seek speakers who are academicians or scholars?
No. While many of our speakers are scholars who are trained in academic disciplines and hold conventional academic credentials, we also host others from non-academic or para-academic backgrounds. These include, but are not limited to: journalists, artists, political practitioners, NGO representatives, diplomats, theorists, activists, researchers, and any others who have something informed and substantial to contribute to the conversation for peaceful coexistence.
5. Does the Boniuk Institute co-sponsor events with other organizations?
The Boniuk Institute normally declines requests for co-sponsorship. We will, however, consider requests that represent the collaboration of two or more organizations that speak for different constituencies relevant to the issue at hand. To submit a request for co-sponsorship, please send a 500-word description of the project that explains how it serves the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence along with the names of and contact information for the sponsoring organizations to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Incomplete requests will not be considered.
6. Do you screen the presentations of your speakers?
No, and we never will. To do so contradicts the central commitments of a research university. We ask speakers for a title and a blurb for the presentation. They do not submit their notes or manuscripts to us beforehand. While we have a general idea of what they will present, we are never sure until they give the presentation “live” to the audience. Therefore, there is always an element of risk in inviting speakers. This is one of the reasons we reiterate that the views expressed by speakers are not necessarily those of the Boniuk Institute, its staff or of anyone at Rice University.
7. Why are some presentations not available as webcasts?
Some presenters are sharing works in progress or feel a need to protect their intellectual property; they withhold the rights to webcast the event. In most of those cases, the Boniuk Institute attempts to secure a limited use agreement in which a video copy of the presentation can be made available to researchers and students on loan. If there is a presentation or event for which there is no webcast available online, contact us to see if a research copy of the presentation is available.
8. How is the Boniuk Institute funded?
The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance was established at Rice University with a $5 million endowment gift from Dr. Milton and Laurie Boniuk in April of 2004. The name changed from Center to Institute on May 16, 2013 by a gift of $28.5 million from Dr. Milton and Laurie Boniuk. Our basic operating budget comes from the interest earned on that endowment. That income provides funding for our current salaries, lecture costs, publicity, and some of our other activities. The Institute also seeks donations from individuals, foundations and corporations, as well as additional major gift and endowment funding to support on-going projects, grassroots efforts and future initiatives.
9. Why does the Boniuk Institute need additional funds?
The Institute studies and promotes peaceful coexistence locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. To do this successfully requires ever increasing human, monetary and capital resources. These include funding for wide-ranging media initiatives (radio, internet, podcasting, webcasting, PSA’s on broadcast and billboard media, etc); K-12 curriculum development and teacher training in world religions, tolerance, global citizenship; research publications that illuminate successful strategies for achieving peaceful coexistence; and grassroots peace building activities in conflict-ridden areas.
10. What can I do to help and join the Boniuk Institute achieve its mission?
Become a sustaining member of the Boniuk Institute by making an annual donation in the range of $250 to $5000. Make a major gift to increase the endowment of the Institute through a pledge or through estate planning. If you are interested in either of these options, please contact the director, Mike Pardee by email email@example.com or by phone 713-348-4536. You can also make a direct gift in any amount from $10 to $10,000 by using the Giving To Rice website and your credit card. It can be reached from the Boniuk Institute homepage by clicking on the link for Support The Boniuk Institute. You can also mail a contribution to Boniuk Institute MS 350, Rice University, PO Box 1982, Houston, TX 77251-1892.
11. Where is the Institute located?
The Institute occupies two offices (rooms 507, 508) in the Fondren Library on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas.
12. How can I stay informed of the Institute’s activities?
You can visit our website often (www.boniukcenter.org) or you can register for our monthly electronic newsletter by clicking the link at the top of the page.
13. Who can attend the Institute’s events?
All events advertised on our website are free and open to the public on a “first come first seated” basis unless specified otherwise. All we ask is that people attend in a spirit of free inquiry and respect for divergent opinions.