PS 157 Course Syllabus, Winter 2010

PS 157 Course Syllabus
reading and lecture schedule
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Political Science 157
T, TH 3:30-4:45pm
Theater Dance 1701 
Winter 2010 

Graduate Student Assistants
Holly Klick 
Lauren Copeland      

Professor  John Woolley
Ellison 3714
Office Hours: T 5-6:00pm, W 4-5:00
And by appointment; x7772

[section times, locations and office hours, email--new window]


Technicalities. This course is open only to sophomores, juniors and seniors who have completed PS 12 or PS 100, and PS 104 (or equivalent).  

Content. The course will examine the U.S. presidency from the origins of the office until the present day.   The emphasis is on contrasting accounts that emphasize the role of the president as an individual strategic actor; accounts that emphasize the importance of institutions, and accounts that emphasize the importance of change external to government—for example, in technology and the economy. These issues are highlighted in the historical moment of the Obama administration. Throughout, we will be interested in the problems involved in drawing historical analogies and trying to imagine "what-if" counterfactuals.

Requirements. The course requirements include the following:

1. Attending lectures and taking notes. The textbook by Richard Waterman, is organized thematically around the problems of historical change. Other readings, are thematic in more conventional ways. The lectures will involve dicussion of historical developments and important themes. Some material in the lectures that will be new and that will not be covered in the readings. In preparing exams, I will assume that you are familiar with material from lectures and from assigned readings.

2. Exams. There are two exams in this course. The mid-term will be in class on  Thursday February 4 [the 5th week], and will be worth 25% of the course grade.   The final exam will be comprehensive and worth 35% of the course grade.   The final exam is Friday March 19, 4:00-7:00pm

3. Essays:   Each exam will be accompanied by a short take-home essay assignment which will be worth an additional 10% for the midterm (tentatively due by Monday Feb 8) and 15% for the final (tentatively due by Wednesday March 17). You may be asked to submit both an electronic and paper copy of your work.

You will be graded off for poor writing (including nonstandard grammar, disorganization, rambling sentences, and misspelling). You will be failed for plagiarism.

4. Readings.   There is a lot of reading and you need to work diligently so as not to fall behind. The weekly discussions will help with the task of organizing the historical material in a thematic way.   After you do the readings, check your own comprehension by seeing if you can compose a brief summary of the main points and supporting evidence in the assigned material. If you do this regularly you will be well-equipped to earn an excellent grade in the class; you will get more out of the class; and you will be in a position to participate more effectively. I reserve the option of giving unannounced in-class quizzes if I feel students are not keeping up with the readings. No make-ups of these quizzes will be permitted   

5. Participation. The remaining 15% of the course grade will reflect your participation. Participation principally involves attending and contributing to discussion section. To participate you must be present and prepared.   Sitting silently is not participating. If there is interest we will set up an online discussion forum.

6.   Learn the Presidents.   Students are expected to know names, parties, years in office, how the president left office for all presidents from Lincoln through Obama. A worksheet can be downloaded HERE. This will be tested on the final exam.

Office Hours:   I am available for office hours on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.   I also respond to e-mail.

Grades. As indicated above, your course grade will be determined on the basis of the following weights to be applied to each separate performance:   Essays: .25; Final exam: .35; Midterm .25,   Participation, .15.

Late work. Plan your schedule now so that you can submit your work on time and be prepared for the final. Any essay turned in late will be penalized one full letter grade for each 24 hour period it is late. Anyone missing an exam without a prior excuse will not be permitted to make up the exam without evidence of a real emergency beyond his/her control. Students requesting alternative exam times, for whatever reason, must expect exams that are more difficult and that have a different format.  Here are some of the many reasons for makeup exams that I will not accept: Your parents are coming into town for a non-emergency visit. There is a really cool concert in LA the night before. You have decided to take two classes scheduled at the same time. You decide to purchase a non-refundable airline ticket for the day before the exam.

Academic Integrity. In all work, students are expected to maintain the highest levels of academic integrity. The University General Catalog states:   "It is expected that students understand and subscribe to the ideal of academic integrity and be willing to bear individual responsibility for their work.   Materials submitted to fulfill academic requirements must represent a student's own efforts.   Any act of academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism or other forms of cheating, is unacceptable and will be met with disciplinary action."     Also see information at the Student Affairs Web Page.  

In the case of exams, this means that you must not cheat. In the case of written assignments, it means that you must do original work and properly document your work. When you copy from another work (including things you find on the internet), enclose the copied information in quotation marks and indicate the source of the copied information. When you closely paraphrase the work of another person, indicate the source with a reference. When you draw your ideas substantially from the work of another, indicate that with a reference as well.   When you report facts or statistics that are not common knowledge, indicate with a reference the source of the fact or statistic.   If your misbehavior is serious, your work will be referred to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action and you can expect an F for the course.

Required for purchase are the following texts.  

Waterman, The Changing American Presidency 2nd. AtomicDog 2006. Online purchase is possible, and the text is entirely available online together with quizzes. I will be adding annotations online at some points. The course registration ID is: 1712144809110. Go to, click on "students" and then enter the registration ID.

Rockman and Waterman, eds., Presidential Leadership, Oxford 2008.

Ellis and Nelson eds., Debating the Presidency, CQ 2010.

There is additional required reading. All of it is available online through links on the online course "schedule." To access these readings you need to have a login and password that are available **only in class.**

ONLINE :  A web site with many resources for this course is available at:

or alternatively, you can (usually) reach it simply by typing:

In order to participate fully in the assignments for this class, it is extremely important that you have access to this web site.   Please let me know immediately if for any reason you are unable to access this resource. UPDATES AND NECESSARY MODIFICATIONS WILL BE POSTED ONLINE AND ANNOUNCED IN CLASS.