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Democracy & Debate 2022-23 Events

The University of Michigan’s Democracy & Debate events provide an opportunity for learning and engagement across multiple platforms. Our collective goal is to share unique engagement opportunities that address the breadth of elements that constitute a democratic society. We encourage you to participate as an active member of our community.

These events seek to consider broadly the intersections between democracy and arenas that shape our collective experiences. They provide opportunities to examine the crucial intersection between democracy and racial and social justice and invitations to explore the impact of the relationship between democracy and our environments, from the arts to policy, from social media to climate change. The suite of events also examine pressures on democracies locally, nationally, and globally. All of the programs invite discussion and reflection on free speech, the exchange of ideas, and the responsibilities of members of a democratic society.

Through these activities, we seek to establish habits of active and informed democratic engagement in the years between presidential elections, as we continue to grapple with the multiple challenges that confront our nation and our world. Our list of events will grow, so we encourage you to check back frequently.

Dec 8, 2022 4:30 p.m.Weill Hall, Betty Ford Auditorium (1110)

Join Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt and Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes for a conversation at the intersection of law, policy, and the criminal justice system.

As a 10th District Court of Appeals Judge for the State of Ohio, Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt will offer her perspective on what policymakers need to know about the criminal justice system.

Judge Beatty Blunt will offer firsthand knowledge about the criminal justice system, focusing on the inner workings of the local and national court systems, as well as the role of a judge as both a policy implementer and policy interpreter. Together, Dean Watkins-Hayes and Judge Beatty Blunt will discuss how social context–including race, gender, poverty, and education–shapes criminal justice pathways and outcomes.


Stamps Gallery launched Respond/​Resist/​Rethink in the fall 2020 to kick off the fall semester with student work paired with the work of leading artists exhibiting at the Gallery. In this semester’s exhibition, students responded to the prompt: The care, sustainability, and access to free and clean water is arguably one of the most urgent and challenging issues of our time. ​“What can you do to spread awareness of water issues and conservation measures?

Water is the lifeblood of civilizations, the center of cities, the foundation of creation stories and the connective tissue of culture. Water is a life force, without it humanity will cease to exist. Fresh water is necessary for the survival of all living organisms on Earth. The human body is made up of over 60% water and humanity cannot survive without it. Water is a vital life source that holds (and generates) power. It is nourishing, quenching, and refreshing but has also been commodified, polluted, and politicized.

From the Standing Rock, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations, to the straits of Mackinac where oil pipelines threaten important waterways, to the polluted Mississippi River and drying Colorado River Basin, to water shutoffs in Detroit, PFAs in Ann Arbor, and the Flint Water crisis (to name just a few), ensuring access to clean water (and the sustainable ecologies it supports) is an ongoing struggle that requires intersectional, intergenerational, and collective knowledge sharing, discussion and action to protect.


Flint Is Family In Three Acts is a multi-part exhibition by renowned artist LaToya Ruby Frazier. For five years, Frazier researched and collaborated with two poets, activists, mothers and residents of Flint, Michigan, Shea Cobb and Amber Hasan, as they endured one of the most devastating ecological crises in U.S. history. Resulting in a monumental oeuvre of photographs, video, and texts Frazier developed Flint Is Family In Three Acts (2016−2021) to advocate for access to clean and safe drinking water for all regardless of race, religion and economic status. The series records stories of surviving and thriving, especially within racialized and marginalized neighborhoods in Flint, to ensure that they remained visible in national debates concerning environmental justice. Drawing inspiration from the urgency in Frazier’s work, which also sheds light on building equitable and inclusive futures, Stamps Gallery, part of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, initiated a partnership with the Flint Institute of Arts and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University to bring this important exhibition together for the first time in Michigan. As co-presenters of this landmark exhibition, our goal is to offer a creative pedagogical platform that reaches broader audiences across Michigan and beyond — Flint is Family: Act I(2016−2017) will take place at the Flint Institute of Arts, Act II (2017−2019) at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and Act III (2019) at Stamps Gallery. The exhibition served as a catalyst to bring three disparate institutions together to deepen our understanding of individual and institutional agency in advocating for equity, transparency and environmental justice in our respective communities, while also highlighting the role of the artist as an agent for enacting positive social change.

Curated by Srimoyee Mitra, Tracee Glab, and Steven L. Bridges with the assistance of Jennifer Junkermeier-Khan, Rachel Winter, and Rachael Holstege.

Jan 24, 2023 6:00 pmRackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington Street

Democracy in Crisis: Views from the Press

Wallace House Presents journalist and educator Jelani Cobb,in conversation with Ford School Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes, as part of the continuing series: “Democracy in Crisis: Views from the Press.”

Cobb’s talk looks at the historic challenges to democracy that centered around race, the impact of the media, and how this frames and informs the current moment. 

About the series: Democracy in Crisis

In Spring 2022, Democracy & Debate, the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Wallace House launched the series “Democracy in Crisis: Views from the Press,” hosting four award-winning journalists to share their insights into the forces threatening and protecting American democratic structures and systems. The series - which will continue into the 2022-23 academic year - also explores the current state of journalism and the role of the press in upholding democratic institutions.

This in-person event will also be live-streamed. A video recording will also be available on our website after the event.

This event is presented in partnership with U-M Democracy & Debate, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Wallace House.

a portrait of Tabbye Chavous
Democracy & Debate has mobilized our communities to think more critically about movement towards a more diverse and inclusive society. 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.
- Tabbye Chavous, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer