Michael S. Barr and Cynthia Wilbanks invite you to the Election 2020 in Context newsletter...
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Dear U-M Community,

As we look to the last week of classes of this extraordinary Fall semester, we also look to the series of the events that will formalize the results of the 2020 election process: the safe harbor date for certification of each state's election outcomes on December 8, electors casting their ballots in the electoral college on December 14, and a joint session of the House and Senate to formally count the electoral college ballots on January 6.

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris continue to announce nominations for cabinet positions and their staffs, forming one of the most diverse administrations in our history. This week's Community Conversation "President-elect Biden's Cabinet Nominees: Implications for Economic and Foreign Policy" will focus on the cabinet nominations of Janet Yellen for Secretary of Treasury, the first woman to hold that post; Anthony Blinken for Secretary of State; and Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor. What do these nominations signal about the trajectory of the incoming administration? Join two U-M experts, Linda Tesar, Professor of Economics, and Ambassador Susan D. Page, Professor of Practice in International Diplomacy at the Ford School and Professor of Practice at the Law School, on December 10, at 5:30 p.m. for an engaging and insightful conversation about the challenges and paths that lie ahead.

We've all heard the phrase closely associated with former Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill: "all politics is local." We would like to highlight the unveiling of an extraordinary resource, The functioning of democracy at the local level: a compendium of findings from the Michigan Public Policy Survey of local leaders, a compendium of 12 years of Michigan local government leaders' views on democracy and democratic governance produced by the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

This will be the last of our Election 2020 in Context newsletters until January. With the semester winding down, we will pause the newsletter until the beginning of Winter term 2021, which coincides with Inauguration Day on January 20. The Theme Semester will offer a host of programming around the Inauguration.

In the meantime, we encourage you to take advantage of the many recorded sessions and engagement opportunities from this past semester. From the federal deficit to voting rights, the role of the arts in democracy to the role of the courts, the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester has explored a breadth of topics in collaboration with partners across the university. You may also want to explore activities that you can share with your family, such as the Michigan Minds podcast series or the Dialogue Deck: A Conversation Exercise for Political Reflection, drawn from UMMA's collection, as well as our collection of student and faculty resources.

We wish all of you safe and peaceful holidays.


Michael S. Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Cynthia Wilbanks,
Vice President for Government Relations

Co-Chairs, Steering Committee, Democracy & Debate Theme Semester

Week of 12/7
December 10, 5:30pm

President-elect Biden's first announcements of nominations for his cabinet -- Janet Yellen as Secretary of Treasury, Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor -- signal the incoming administration's immediate focus on economic and foreign policy. What is the significance of Biden's choice of nominees and what does their selection tell us about the direction his administration might take? Join Linda Tesar, Professor of Economics, and Ambassador Susan Page, Professor of Practice in International Diplomacy at the Ford School and Professor of Practice at the Law School, for a lively, wide-ranging discussion on the upcoming challenges in economic and foreign policy in the domestic and international sphere.

Available through December 8

Join the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance for this premiere of A Beautiful Country. Using dance, drag, drama, and documentary elements, A Beautiful Country chronicles 150 years of Asian-American immigration history. Miss Visa Denied, a transgender drag queen and performer, is the narrator who guides the audience through the turbulent history of Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese people coming to America. Heartfelt testimonials and the dramatization of some highly vibrant and egregious pieces of propaganda showcase the provocative events that have shaped this history. Addressing issues of race, gender, and appropriation, this play examines the fundamental questions surrounding the immigrant experience, including what it means to be an American.

This production was filmed over two weeks in the Arthur Miller Theatre and various remote locations according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance's approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed. The production will receive its premiere on Facebook and be available for one week on YouTube beginning on Wednesday, December 2nd.

Self-paced learning

The Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) has released a new resource that summarizes Michigan local government leaders' views on democracy and democratic governance. The findings come from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), a program that has gathered the opinions of elected and appointed officials from all 1,856 of Michigan's general purpose local governments over the last 12 years. During that time, various MPPS survey waves have explored a wide-ranging collection of issues related to the functioning of democracy and political participation in local governments statewide. Topics include citizen engagement, local officials' trust in other levels of government and in their citizens, relationships and communication between the state government and its local jurisdictions, relationships between local officials themselves, and between local governments and their citizens, civil civic discourse, election administration, and more. The compendium of MPPS findings linked above summarizes that research, and while the surveys have uncovered numerous areas of concern, the overarching picture it paints is one where local government leaders in Michigan are—generally—positive about institutions, relationships, and attitudes associated with local democratic governance. This compendium was produced as part of a CLOSUP research project: The Functioning of Democracy: Insights from Michigan's Local Leaders

The Michigan Minds Podcast and Video Series brings U-M faculty directly to you. This series highlights the issues that have driven the news cycle and the election cycle this year from COVID to structural racism to voter engagement, explore the strength of U-M expertise.

In this period of one of the most highly charged US Presidential Elections in recent history, the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA) and the Edward Ginsberg Center offer this Dialogue Deck exercise as a platform to examine and explore social and political norms, values, and beliefs through shared dialogue and reflection. Each of these images was thoughtfully selected by UMMA and Ginsberg Center staff and faculty, drawing from UMMA's permanent collection with an emphasis placed on artworks that both directly and indirectly evoke the culture, politics, and history of the USA. We believe that visual art offers a creative platform for exploring complex and difficult issues. Images help to expand our intellectual and emotional capacities, and offer opportunities to describe the world as we see it and imagine how others might see it differently.

A democracy thrives when its citizens exercise their right to engage in every level of government. Becoming an informed, equitable, and empowered society depends on all members of that society adopting a learning lifestyle and embracing their constitutional rights. This Collection is a curated portfolio of learning experiences that will help learners understand the complexities of democratic systems, which includes content about current policy issues, community engagement strategies, social justice and racial equity, the underlying political and legal processes, and ways in which citizens can enact change in their own contexts.

Holding a civil, productive conversation with individuals who may not agree with you is always a challenge. Political or personal values conversations are an important part of civil discourse, especially if each party is willing to listen and connect with mutual respect and a goal to seek common ground. This collection is full of resources to support better conversations around very complicated and potentially emotional topics.

Engagement opportunities

Photocracy invites students, faculty, staff and alum from the U-M campus community to share what democracy means to them by submitting an image along with a short written or audio- or video-recorded explanation of the personal meaning of that image. Submissions will be showcased online in an ever-growing collage of images and videos, where viewers can view a diverse and wide-ranging collection of submission in a gallery of images to see and hear more about the unique perspectives of our campus community.

Time for a movie! We invite members of our community to register for a free code to watch this intimate account of legendary U.S. Representative John Lewis' life, legacy and more than 60 years of extraordinary activism. Available through December 17.

Democracy Café toolkits provide in-depth materials on Democracy & Debate themes, with videos, readings, and guided questions to facilitate group discussions.

Student support resources

December 9, 12:30pm. Brought to you by the University Library. You can't hang out with them in person, but you can still shake off stress by Zoom visiting with adorable furry friends from Therapaws of Michigan. They're sure to make you smile!

December 10, 12pm. Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Do global events make your heart race? Have you gotten all the uncertainty you can handle? Drop in for a brief guided meditation to help you feel a sense of stillness and ease, get grounded, build your resilience, and get ready for whatever comes your way. Drop-in via Zoom.

December 12, 2-8pm. Drop in with Zoom on December 12 between 2 and 8 PM for Home for Break! Enjoy LGBTQ+ media, games, and self-care activities with the Spectrum Center Programming Board before the semester ends.

We've compiled a list of resources for students on the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester website. Be sure to practice self-care and wellness as we navigate the weeks ahead.

We can all contribute to the well-being of our students, colleagues, and entire campus community as we navigate this unprecedented year. Student Life's Community Connections offers tips and resources for staff and faculty to foster a supportive community for students post-election.

In the Classroom: weekly resources from CRLT and Ginsberg

We've compiled a list of resources to assist faculty and staff as you support the needs of students and address your own needs for wellness in the coming weeks.

CRLT provides helpful resources to provide strategies for anticipating and responding to difficult discussions as well as classroom conflict and disruption and helpful guidelines for classroom interactions.

Ginsberg Center's Pathways to Civic Engagement and Community Change offers a framework, strategies, and resources to connect your discipline, course, or program to broader social systems as a means to foster students' civic learning and engagement.

IGR Insight Handouts offer invaluable print ready handouts and resources for those considering applying dialogic techniques in the classroom and beyond.

This is the third of a three-part series by CRLT and the Ginsberg Center outlining strategies and resources that instructors can use to plan, frame, and facilitate conversations about the 2020 Election.

Curated resources for faculty and staff to encourage voter engagement, and also to support the development of students' civic engagement and habits of democracy before and after the upcoming election.

Answers to questions with which U-M instructors have been grappling this fall as they teach in the midst of the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor movements on campus, and the continued activism and protests against racism and police violence. A recent conversation between Dr. Angela Dillard, Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican & African Studies, and U-M Associate General Counsel Jack Bernard offer an excellent resource for instructors on how to navigate their approach to these issues.

Here is a quick reference list put together by the Ford School, including timestamps, of where some of the key questions relevant to instructors this fall are addressed in the video:

  • Top 3 things to know about university policy when teaching political topics (timestamp: 21:05)
  • What makes the diag different from the classroom in terms of free speech? (timestamp: 37:54)
  • What would make teaching in this moment exciting? (timestamp: 1:10:55)
  • How might I handle the lack of agreement on evidence in the course? (timestamp: 1:19:00)
  • Can I advocate for students to participate in the Big 10 Voting Challenge? (timestamp: 1:24:40)
Election 2020 in Context

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