Democracy & Debate project to continue through 2021-22

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At a time when democratic institutions are under pressure and the University of Michigan community is looking to engage, U-M will continue Democracy & Debate, its universitywide collaboration on democratic engagement, through the 2021-22 academic year.

The announcement of the program’s continuation was made by Michael Barr, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Anne Curzan dean of LSA, along with other Ann Arbor deans and directors.

“I am delighted to be partnering with Anne Curzan and our fellow deans and directors across campus to continue the important work of Democracy & Debate,” Barr said.

“Our democracy is strong when we nurture and protect it every day, not simply in election season. Our programming this year will help to engage students, faculty, staff and alumni, and educate the broader public on critical local, state, national and global issues.”

A multidisciplinary faculty Steering Committee and a Core Team of faculty, staff and students will shape unique engagement opportunities in five focal areas: arts and democracy, civics education in democracies, climate change and democracy, democracy and racial and social justice, and democracies in peril.

From the arts to engineering, the School of Information to the Ford School, and in partnership with the National Center for Institutional Diversity and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the offerings will touch all students and U-M community members.

Democracy & Debate 2021-22 builds on the success of last year’s campuswide theme semester in which thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni engaged with programming to enhance voter education and increase voter participation during the tumultuous 2020 election season.

Throughout the academic year, Democracy & Debate will offer programs and engagement opportunities, including events with national experts, student competitions to expand understanding of participation in the democratic process, and partnerships to galvanize voter participation and civic engagement.

It also includes a suite of self-directed learning resources, including Michigan Online’s “Democracy and Debate Collection,” a portfolio of learning experiences curated to address the complexities of democratic systems, and Michigan Publishing’s, “Dialogues in Democracy,” an interdisciplinary collection of University of Michigan Press books that explore the core tensions in American political culture.

More information about events, programming and learning resources can be found on the Democracy & Debate website.

“We enthusiastically endorse the mission of the Democracy & Debate effort because it is strongly aligned with our values and beliefs,” said Thomas Finholt, dean of the School of Information. “We welcome the opportunity to continue to engage U-M students, faculty and staff in conversations about what it means to be a member of a democratic society and how this has changed in the face of new modes of interaction and communication.”

NCID Director Tabbye Chavous said the program’s impact has been felt across the campus.

“Democracy & Debate has mobilized our communities to think more critically about movement towards a more diverse and inclusive society,” she said. “The contributions this year from expert diversity scholars will continue to help us all better understand and further examine the history of democracy and leverage this opportunity to engage with students, faculty and staff to envision a more just campus, community and society.”

Democracy & Debate underscores the deans’ and directors’ commitment to the university’s future-enriching mission and aligns with U-M core values as it develops leaders and citizens who will challenge our present for the better, Curzan said.

“It feels essential that we as an institution sustain our focus on what it means to be a member of a democratic society, in the U.S. and globally,” she said. “We are committed to open, informed dialogue about key issues, from free speech to voting access to structural inequalities, as part of our mission to contribute to the common good and create more sustainable and just societies.”

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