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Host of events mark Stanford’s first Democracy Day on Nov. 2 – Election Day

Democracy Day is the name given to the academic holiday championed by students and approved by the Faculty Senate in June as a day for civic engagement.

Stanford will mark the university’s inaugural Democracy Day on Tuesday, Nov. 2, with a daylong series of events, beginning with Donuts & Democracy – an exercise in deliberative polling – and ending with “Boys State,” an award-winning documentary film.

Stanford will celebrate the university’s inaugural Democracy Day on Tuesday, Nov. 2, with a daylong series of events. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to attend all of the day’s events.

Faculty and staff are invited to participate in three programs: Merging Science and Contemplative Practice for Climate Action; Is Democracy in Danger? An Interdisciplinary Conversation; and Movie Night.

Throughout the day, students are invited to help paint a mural – focused on the themes of community, hope for the future and empowerment – that will later go on display at the Haas Center for Public Service and other buildings on campus.

Democracy Day is the name given to the academic holiday championed by students and approved by the Faculty Senate in June 2021. The senate designated the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November – the day set by law as Election Day – for the annual event.

At the senate meeting, education Professor Adam Banks said designating Election Day as an academic holiday would signal that Stanford values student, staff and faculty voting and other participation in the electoral process, and would create an opportunity for valuable community learning, deliberation, reflection, engagement and cross-cultural exchange.

Instead of going to classes, students are encouraged to participate in programs designed to promote civic and democratic engagement.

Reflecting on the upcoming event, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said cultivating engagement with civic responsibility is an important part of Stanford’s educational mission.

“Democracy Day, as proposed by our students and approved by the Faculty Senate, will offer an opportunity to foster civic engagement and participation in our democratic processes,” he said. “Students, faculty and staff have organized a compelling set of activities for this year’s inaugural event, and I encourage members of our community to participate.”

Inspirational goal

Sean Casey, a junior who represents Stanford in Government – a non-partisan, student-led group – on the Democracy Day Coordinating Committee, hopes the event will inspire students, faculty and staff to reflect on their identities as part of a larger community.

“Long term, we hope Democracy Day will become part of a valued university tradition that will help bring about a more civically minded Stanford,” said Casey, an economics and political science major in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Casey said the movie “Boys State” uses a high school competition to examine the good and the bad of the nation’s politics.

“It demonstrates that the problems facing democracy today are deeply ingrained in human behavior – but so are the solutions,” he said. “We chose “Boys State” because we think it will draw Stanford students from all corners of campus. It’s educational, it’s entertaining, it’s interesting, and above all, it’s a great movie.”

Megha Parwani, ’22, who represents the Haas Center for Public Service on the Democracy Day Coordinating committee, said she is excited that Stanford is committing a full day to democracy and political life.

“To me, this is a key realization of Stanford’s founding mission to ‘promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization,’” said Parwani, a philosophy and political science major in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

“A healthy and vital political system is at the foundation of public welfare, and I am glad we can take time from our jam-packed academic year to think about how we see ourselves as participants in democracy,” she said. “We will all get the opportunity to connect with each other on policy issues in a personal and political context, rather than through research or academics. In addition, we will connect education to its purpose as training for citizenship.”

Parwani said she is especially looking forward to the faculty panel “Is Democracy in Danger? An Interdisciplinary Conversation.”

“It will bring together interdisciplinary perspectives on the challenges and opportunities confronting our democracy,” she said. “I am hoping it will send the message that active political membership and political progress can be approached from multiple angles and using a variety of academic backgrounds.”

Democracy Day schedule of events

Many of the events will be held outdoors, weather permitting. For event times and more information visit the Democracy Day website. Schedule of events:

Donuts & Democracy: A Deliberative Discussion on Social Media Participants will gather in small groups to discuss the role of social media in the nation’s political systems. They will hear directly from political leaders and issue experts in plenary sessions. The event offers a hands-on opportunity to learn about deliberative democracy – an approach to decision-making that allows participants to consider relevant information from multiple points of view – and its ability to change the way people think, interact and govern. Register here.

Merging Science & Contemplative Practice for Climate Action Crystal Chissell, a senior director at the nonprofit Project Drawdown, will discuss the organization’s framework of climate solutions and a template for making a personal climate action plan that can be supported by contemplative practice. Register for the virtual event here.

Is Democracy in Danger? An Interdisciplinary Conversation Michael A. McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, will moderate a panel featuring Stanford faculty members discussing the relationship between civic engagement, public service and academic life. Panelists include Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science, and Mehran Sahami, a professor (teaching) of computer science. RSVP here for the event. In a lunch reception following the panel, student facilitators trained by the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society will lead small group discussions on the role of civic engagement in student life. StanfordVotes, a non-partisan student organization, will distribute tee-shirts to participants.

Can Democracies Beat Climate Change? A discussion with Paul N. Edwards, director of the Program on Science, Technology & Society and a contributor to the 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Adam Bonica, an associate professor of political science whose research focuses on the intersection of data science and politics. Pizza will be served at the event, which will be held at the Haas Center for Public Service. Space is limited; register here.

Dinner & Dialogue Stanford faculty members will join students for dinner conversations in dining halls across campus to talk about the role of civic engagement, participation and citizenship in the lives of students and professors. Instructors can register to host an event here.

Movie Night Gather in Meyer Green to watch “Boys State,” an award-winning documentary following participants in Boys Nation, a program in which thousands of high school boys build a representative government from the ground up. (Watch the trailer). Bring a blanket and friends; snacks will be provided. RSVP here.

Mural Painting In an event likened to “a large coloring book project,” participants will fill in the outlines of a mural – painted on two wood panels – evoking themes of community, hope for the future and empowerment. The design was created by junior Jessica Chen Lee and sophomore Howard Kung, who are both art practice majors in the School of Humanities and Sciences. The event will take place on the raised concrete platform between Meyer Green and Stanford Law School.

The sponsors of Democracy Day include the Associated Students of Stanford University, the Haas Center for Public Service, Students for a Sustainable Stanford and Stanford in Government.