POL 416, ALC 205,  MW 2:30 - 3:45
Dr. Jim L. Riley  Regis University
Spring, 2009

Office Hours
 Monday & Wednesday: 11:00- - 2:00
Tuesday &Thursday: 1:00 -4:00
Friday: By Appointment  
 Office Phone: 303/458-4974

web page --

United States Capitol

capitol.jpg (23024 bytes)

The first sentence in the Regis Mission Statement reads:   "Regis University educates men and women of all ages to take leadership roles and to make a positive impact in a changing society."  Understanding the nature of politics in its broadest sense is crucial to this goal.  This course seeks to expand the political knowledge of students such that each of them is better able to become capable and responsible leaders in our society that is so deeply penetrated by things political.

TEXT: Congress and Its Members (11th ed.), Davidson & Oleszek

            1. Use and Significance of Syllabus: This syllabus is a most important guide for you in understanding what it is this course is designed to accomplish and how it is organized to achieve its stated goals. Moreover, specific ground rules, obligations, and responsibilities are described below. By a careful reading you should obtain a clear idea of what we will be doing in this class throughout the semester. It is not intended that this syllabus constitute a rigid and inflexible strait-jacket binding us to a predetermined schedule, but rather that it serve as a series of guideposts enabling us to maintain some clear focus on the subject at hand.

The dates and deadlines contained below will be adhered to, barring unforeseen exigencies requiring modification. Daily assignments will not be given inasmuch as a complete semester's assignment is included at the end of this syllabus. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with each day's assignment in accordance with those specifications.

2. Course Objective: It is the objective of this course to impart within its participants knowledge of, interest in, and an appreciation for the significance of the United States Congress as the major national policy-maker. More particularly, students will be expected to develop their knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of the congressional processes, structures, personalities, powers, limitations, and linkages with other governmental and non-governmental institutions. Evidence of the degree to which students have reached these objects will be gleaned by their responses to open-ended questions on examinations as well as from in-class verbal contributions.

3. Class Format: The lecture/discussion method will be utilized in this class. Each member of the class is expected to provide regular and frequent in-class verbal contributions. The procedure will normally be one in which I will initiate the discussion and/or presentations by directing attention to matters of importance. This may involve something of a brief "lecture" or visual presentations, but invariably with the expectation of student questions, observations, comments, and criticisms.

On other occasions, students may be asked to comment on topics covered in their reading and to explain phenomenon studied at some earlier point in the course. As will be seen below, the degree to which students provide positive in-class contributions may play a significant role in grade determination.

4. Examinations: There will be two (2) examinations during the semester and a final examination at the end. Each examination will count for 25% of a student's course grade as will the out-of-class project. It is the policy of this class to permit no make-up examinations, with two exceptions: (1) instances where a particular student has a verified medical excuse and (2) instances of personal emergency requiring a written request for a make-up examination. Only in the most pressing of circumstances will a non-medical excuse be accepted, and the likelihood of acceptance is much greater when the request is made prior to the scheduled exam date. Students missing a regularly scheduled examination and not meeting either of the two exceptions will receive a Fail for the examination missed.  Students may bring and use to each examination five 3" x   5" note cards with anything written on them.  Copied material may not be used.  The sharing of cards during the exam is prohibited.

If, after the first 3 grades (2 examinations and the out-of-class project) have been obtained, a student has a B average or better, he/she may choose to opt out of the final examination and complete a 3-5 page ungraded thoughtful  written evaluation of the course.  If this option is chosen the average of the 3 grades will constitute the grade for the course (with the possibility of being boosted to the next highest level through positive in-class contributions).

It should be noted that the examinations and out-of-papers will be graded "blindly." Each student will be assigned a personal code that will be affixed to examinations and papers. This will eliminate any personal factors from the grading process.

5. Out-of-Class  Project:  Each student must complete one of the two following projects: 

(1) A standard library and internet research project utilizing no less than seven separate sources of information: Students choosing this option will select a manageable topic on Congress that is interesting to him/her and provide an incisive and probing investigation therein. The prospectus for this project should consist of a tentative table of contents, a title page, a one paragraph narrative describing the project, and a listing of at least five separate anticipated sources.

(2) A detailed review of one scholarly article:  The article chosen must be no less than ten pages in length. The article is to be summarized and analyzed separately. The prospectus for this paper shall consist of two (2)  full bibliographical citations of articles selected by the student.   One of these will be recommended by the instructor as most desirable. (Note that news magazines, newspapers or other "popular publications" are not to be considered scholarly in nature.)   An excellent place to start searching for an acceptable article are in the Notes and Suggested Readings located at the end of the text.  

The final paper shall consist of a separate  summary and analysis (delineated by headings) for the article read. A copy of the article used must be attached to the final paper as well as the original approval of the article(s).  Grades for this project will be based in large measure on the presence of an insightful critique of the article: its content, style, methodology, "readability," and persuasiveness. The "analysis" portion of the paper should follow the descriptive section.   The analysis should constitute about half of the total submission.  In this area you are responsible for critiquing the article.  What is your evaluation of its worth?  Why did you reach these conclusions?  Did the writer(s) accomplish the goal(s) of the article?  Why?  Why not?   In the analysis section your opinion(s) is/are important. 

In the summary section you are to describe the content of the article in a non-evaluative manner with no expressions of opinion.  This is a descriptive only portion of the paper.  Essentially your task here is to distill out the essence of the message of the writer.

Paper Requirements:  For each of the projects the following requirements shall apply.  The project should result in a typewritten or computer printed paper of approximately 2,500 words (about 10 pages).  In addition to the body of the paper, there must be a title page, a table of contents, headings within the body of the paper, footnotes or end notes, and a complete bibliography of all sources used. 

Deadlines:  A one-page typed or computer printed prospectus for the final paper is due in class on February 2. This will be returned to each student and must be attached to the final paper which is due in class on April 7. Late papers will be heavily penalized.

Early Submissions:  Students wishing to have the opportunity to submit a revised and presumably improved version of their paper may do so by submitting their initial paper on March 18. Early submissions will be evaluated, graded and returned to students.  A revised version of the paper may then be submitted on April 7. The revised paper will then be re-evaluated, critiqued and graded. This latter grade will be substituted for the one assigned for the original paper. This re-submission is an option and not a requirement but is available only to those who meet the March 18 deadline. Late papers will be heavily penalized.

A single page synopsis of your out-of-class project is due on April 20.  You need to bring enough copies so that each member of the class may have one.

6. Procedural Quality Requirements:  Any papers produced out-of-class as part of an assignment will be penalized if certain error characteristics are present. As a general rule, technical errors (i.e. typographical mistakes, misspellings, sloppy erasures, sentence fragments, etc.) totaling in number an amount greater than the number of pages in the paper, will result in grade penalties that become more severe as their frequency increases. Moreover, papers which deviate significantly from acceptable form (i.e., incorrect or missing footnotes, incorrect or missing bibliography, incorrect or missing table of contents, etc.) will likewise be penalized. Proper form may be gleaned from a careful review and use of Kate Turbian's A Manual For Writers of Term Papers or other guides such as the MLA Manual.  Form for citing internet sources may be found on my web page under miscellaneous information.

This quality-control device has been instituted in an effort to impart within students a habit of paying close attention to correct form and procedural quality. Substance of information, while important in its own right, may be seriously impaired if presented in a manner that renders the communication process clouded. Clarity of message is as vital to such communication as is the value of the content of the message itself. More simply, what one says is important, but saying it clearly is also consequential.

7. Content Quality Requirements: Regardless of the final form of the out-of-class project, it  must contain information that indicates thoughtful consideration of the subject under examination. Well organized structure, focused discussion, clarity of message and reasoned evaluations will all enhance the paper's value.

8. Form of Out-of-Class Project:  It is required that the paper be typed or computer printed. Because this project constitutes a major portion of the work to be done in the course, it should be substantial in content. Any paper with fewer than eight pages (typewritten, double-spaced) of actual content (exclusive of title page or other "filler" pages) will be viewed as probably insubstantial. On the other hand, papers that ramble and/or are of a repetitious nature will be penalized.

9. Student Responsibilities: Each member of the class is expected to read the assigned material prior to class time. A reading of the material must be accompanied by the taking of written notes on what has been read. These text notes will be supplemented with notes taken in class. Thus it is necessary that students attend class regularly (see the attached Policy regarding class absences). In addition to READING, TAKING NOTES, AND ATTENDING CLASS, students are expected to study and think about the material to which they are exposed and to be prepared to write on and discuss the subjects examined.

Students should also keep abreast of events in the United States that pertain to Congress. This means reading a newspaper daily, watching the news on TV (especially the McNeill News Hour on PBS TV), listening to NPR (AM radio, 1340 on the radio dial) "All Things Considered" (3:00 - 7:00 p.m.), and reading a weekly news magazine such as Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report. This is necessary in order to achieve a desirable grade in this class (presumably reflecting one's level of achievement).

Moreover, students are expected to periodically access websites which contain information about Congress and its operations.  Links to Congress may be found on my webpage.  Utilization of the Internet is to be considered an integral part of this class but be aware that much of what passes as authoritative is in fact not so. 

Similarly, it is vital to take "good" notes of three types: class notes, text notes, and research notes. Class notes should summarize material presented in class so that you may later recall what was put before you there. Ideally and desirably, these should be in the form of full and complete sentences, organized in outline form (major and minor headings being present).

Text notes should condense and summarize the material given to you by the author. Research notes serve the purpose of recording that which you have gathered through your out-of-class digging. Generally, the purpose of notes is to store, organize, and make information more readily available so that it can eventually become knowledge. Notes are utilitarian in nature, that is to say, it is designed to serve some larger purpose. If you find, after a few meetings, that your notes are not very accurate or helpful in organizing and understanding the material, meet with me at your first opportunity.

One final point, you should review notes taken at the previous meeting before going to class on any given day. This five or ten minute review will prove valuable in various ways.

10. Student-Professor Conferences: You are invited and encouraged to come by my office whenever you would like. My office hours are given above. I can be found in my office at times other than during regularly scheduled office. Occasionally, I may be called out of the office during scheduled office hours, but for the most part I will be there when indicated. Certainly we should meet if any problems develop with regard to your participation in the course, but this should not be the only reason for getting together. Feel free to drop by for a visit for any reason. If my office hours are not convenient, arrangements can easily be made to meet at another time.

11. Class Attendance and Decorum Policy: Regular attendance at scheduled class meetings is to be considered as an essential component of a student's responsibilities. Material will be presented in class that will otherwise be unavailable. Absences in excess of three are viewed as substantively detrimental to required learning. Absences beyond this limit will result in course grade reduction of .2 for each "cut" beyond three.

Absences under the above stated limits will have minimal impact upon grade except insofar as they may prevent the student from participating in class on a subject that he/she would have otherwise provided some positive comment. The absences referred to here are unexcused absences or "cuts". Excused absences due to verified illness or approved reasons will not count as a "cut".

Students are expected to remain in the class for the entire duration of the class. If there is a need to leave prior to the end of the class period please have the courtesy to inform me prior to the beginning of the class.  During class I request that all students, as a matter of courtesy, remove their hats and refrain from eating during the class.  Bringing a drink to class is OK but be aware of the risk of spillage.

Disagreements on the subjects under discussion will not be allowed to devolve into arguments or personal criticisms.

12.  Computer Use in Class:  Any student wishing to use a computer in class needs to speak with me regarding this request.  It is required that in-class utilization of the computer will be limited exclusively to class related matters:   taking notes or accessing material related to subjects under scrutiny in class.   Utilization of the computer for communication purposes or accessing of material unrelated to the class is strongly disfavored and may result in the loss of in-class computer access privileges.

13. Grading Policy: I shall make every effort to adhere faithfully to university standards relying upon my professional judgment to make the necessary determinations. Grade will be determined by student performance, both in and out of class as set forth in the section on Examinations. "Borderline" grades will be decided using class participation as the deciding factor.

14. Use of the Internet: You are expected to use the Internet locate and library to access material suitable for the out-of-class assignment. A useful place to start is my web-page . It contains numerous links to useful web sites of a political nature. I also encourage you to locate any new web sites that other students of politics might find helpful and interesting. When appropriate I will add them to my web page with proper acknowledgment to the student who found it/them.  You should also use the appendix and footnotes of your text to locate materials.

    I will frequently use e-mail addresses to send information by e-mail to each member of the class. Thus, you need to check their e-mail every day. I will post information via e-mail that will otherwise not be available.  Students may also submit their prospectuses to me via e-mail. I check my mail several times a day and will respond to each note I get in a very short time.

15.  Academic Integrity:  It is expected that students will act honorably in all activities related to this course and will refrain from any form of academic and professional dishonesty or deception in the classroom, clinical, and other learning settings. These behaviors include cheating, plagiarism, falsification of data, falsification of records, and aiding and/or abetting dishonesty.

16.    Accommodation of DisabilitiesFor information regarding Regis disability services policies, visit the web site of the Office of Disability Services.

17.  Important Dates and Deadlines



1/12    Course Introduction

1/14  The Two Congresses (Ch. 1)

1/21 & 1/26  Development of the Modern Congress (Ch. 2)

1/28 & 2/2 Congressional Recruitment (Ch. 3)

2/2   The Electoral Game (Ch. 4)

2/4    Being There (Ch. 5)

2/9 Examination #1

2/11   Leaders and Parties (Ch. 6)

2/16  2/18    Committees in Congress (Ch. 7)

2/23    Congressional Rules (Ch. 8)

2/25 & 3/9  & 3/11 Decision-Making and Video (Ch. 9)

3/16   Examination #2

3/18 & 3/23  Congress and the President (Ch. 10)

3/23 & 3/25   Congress and the Bureaucracy (Ch. 11)

3/30 & 4/1   Congress and the Courts (Ch. 12)

4/6 & 4/8   Interest Groups and Congress (Ch. 13)

4/13  Budgets and Policies (Ch. 14)

4/15  National Security Policies (Ch. 15)

4/20    Conclusions (Ch. 16)

4/22    Student Reports

4/27, Monday, Examination #3, 1:15 - 3:15 p.m.