September 9, 2013
POLI 320B THE POLITICS OF POLICYMAKING IN THE U.S.
FALL SEMESTER (Term 1) 2013
Meetings: Tues, Thurs: 2:00-3:30 Buchanan A 104
Instructor: Professor Paul J. Quirk
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 604-822-2230 (office); 804-738-6409 (home, OK if time-sensitive)
Office hours: Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, 3:30-4:30
and by appointment (via email or in person).
Office location: Buchanan C426.
Teaching Assistant: Jason Tockman
Email: [email protected]
Office hours: TBA (not available October 17-November 10).
This course analyzes the nature and performance of the policymaking process in US
national government. Topics include: the role of institutions (especially Congress, the
presidency, and the bureaucracy); the influence of interest groups and public opinion; and
the use of policy analysis and expert advice. Policy areas include economic policy,
health, environment, “social” issues. Examples of key questions: Can US government
make intelligent decisions? Is it dominated by corporations and the wealthy? What
explains the distinctive tendencies of US policies on health and gay rights? Is the US
capable (in this era) of dealing effectively with serious problems. At many points, we
will consider comparisons between the US and Canada.
The required reading will be moderately heavy. No books are required for purchase. The
readings will be made available in several ways, consistent with copyright requirements.
Some will be available for download from the UBC Library. Some will be available for
download on the course website. Some will be sent as email attachments. Some may be
purchased in one or more small course packets. Watch for further announcements on the
availability of readings.
Exams. There will be one midterm exam and a final exam. Exams will be about 40-50%
on the assigned reading and 50-60% on lectures. Although the lectures will draw on the
readings, they will only cover a fraction of the material from readings that may be tested. Essay. There will be a 12 page research essay. The assignment will be highly specified
with respect to approach and methods, and closely related to course themes, with students
having some choice of specific topics. It will require a modest amount of research in
primary sources, such as congressional committee hearings and floor debates (which are
available on the university website). You will receive detailed guidance about choosing
topics, finding the materials, and writing the paper. You are responsible for knowing and
understanding the University’s rules regarding plagiarism and academic misconduct.
These rules will be strictly enforced.
Participation and active learning. In addition, students will receive a mark for
participation and active learning. It will be based in small part on reasonably frequent,
thoughtful participation in class discussion but mainly on completion of written
participation assignments. These assignments will be either written and handed in during
class, or accessed via the course website. Some will be given in class and written
immediately, as a means of ensuring broader participation in a class discussion. (If you
cut the class, you miss the assignment.) Some of them may involve web-based
exchanges with other students in the course. These assignments will be announced in
class, by e-mail, or both. These assignments will not require large investments of time,
but they will ensure engagement with course topics and current events in U.S. public
policy, and will provide an opportunity for individual thought and expression. Written
participation assignments are graded Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory, and all students will
receive free credit for 1-2 missed assignments depending on the total number given—
permitting a few missed assignments without penalty.
IMPORTANT. Students who are observed gazing at computer screens rather than
attending to class will be penalized for failure to participate, as well as distracting other
students. (Do students actually not know how obvious this is?)
Excused absence from exams and missed assignments. Postponement of exams will
only be permitted in the case of compelling justification, such as relatively severe illness
(not sniffles), university-related travel, etc., which must be adequately documented (such
as by a note from a nurse). In addition, I must be notified of the excusing circumstance
as early as possible, and normally in advance of the due date or exam. Students who are
unable to complete a participation assignment because of such a circumstance will
receive credit for it.
Email messages. You are required to be able to receive email through your university
address, as indicated by the Faculty Service Center listings; and to check email at least
once every day. My method of sending emails will only reach those addresses. You will
have small assignments (usually 10-15 minutes) on very short notice (about two days),
and a few longer ones. Some announcements of these assignments, and other vital
matters, will come via email, as well as the website. You may miss assignments if you do
not check email at least once every day.
Course website. Lectures, syllabi, handouts, and other materials will be made available
via a Connect website—which you will need to access on a regular basis. You will be
2 informed via email and in class when the website is up and running. All important
announcements are made by email; all documents will be posted to the website.
Course notes. Students will receive copies of my lecture notes, via the website. They
will be primarily in MS Word, rather than PowerPoint, because they print out more
efficiently, and more readily present detailed information. Because I am developing
some new lectures, however, they sometimes will not be highly detailed. You will need
to take your own notes in class to be well prepared for exams.
Disabilities. Students requiring accommodation of disabilities should arrange for an
accommodation agreement through the university’s disabilities office.
Midterm exam = 25 percent
Essay = 25 percent
Participation and active learning assignments = 10 percent (based on S/U marking)
Participation – oral = 5 percent
Final exam = 35 percent