As the nation arrives at the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, in partnership with the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID), concludes a year of deep engagement in the issues of the 2020 election cycle with the launch of the Kamala Harris Public Syllabus. Vice President Kamala Harris has broken gender and racial barriers in American politics, and the public “syllabus” is designed to assist us in examining the significance of Harris and the vice presidency in this exceptional historical moment. This syllabus reflects the goals of the theme semester as well as the University of Michigan’s (U-M) ongoing commitment to engage with the debates in and challenges to American democracy as we prepare the next generation of global citizens and leaders.

The Kamala Harris Public Syllabus reflects a national collaborative effort. A call inviting suggestions for books, articles, podcasts, and other educational material was issued to scholars across the nation, and we received over 100 suggestions. The list of submissions was curated by an editorial board of U-M faculty and staff.

This syllabus will serve as a resource to scholars, students, and practitioners across the nation and world who witnessed and now seek to contextualize Harris’ inauguration. 

“This collective public syllabus project is as much about the future as the past and the present,” says Angela Dillard (chair of the Democracy & Debate academic advisory committee and professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies). “The multidisciplinary editorial board was excited about the positive response to our call for contributions, and about the ways that the various submissions pointed to the value of attempting to do this admittedly early-stage evaluation of the significance of Vice President Harris, in ways that honor the diversity of her identities and background. This feels like the perfect way to conclude our theme semester’s academic initiatives.”

This project is the culminating event of U-M’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester that launched in July 2020. Designed for teaching and learning about free speech and the exchange of ideas, democratic engagement from a global perspective and what it means to be a member of a democratic society, the theme semester supported a vast array of engagement activities that engaged thousands of U-M community members across the globe.

The syllabus is published at time when the US continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the disappropriate impacts on certain communities, the rise of anti-Asian hate, the murder of George Floyd, another “crisis” at the southern border, and a myriad of other issues.

“This was a great opportunity to mobilize scholars and scholarship to develop a resource that will facilitate the exploration of how Harris’ vice presidency might help us think more critically about movement toward a more diverse and inclusive union, ” says Tabbye Chavous, director of NCID, associate vice president for research, and professor of education and psychology. The editorial board intends for the syllabus to continue to be updated as news emerges, articles are written, podcasts are recorded, and articles are published.