POLS 371  The American Presidency 

Semester: Fall 2001
Section:  01
Class Time: Thursday 4:00-6:50pm 
Classroom: Butte Hall 706 
Syllabus: http://www.csuchico.edu/~ct65/syllabi/presidency.html
Instructor: Dr. Charles C. Turner 
Email: ccturner@csuchico.edu
Phone: (530)898-6041 (office) or (530)895-8076 (home) 
Office: 717 Butte Hall
Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-11:00am
                      Wednesday 10-noon (or by request)

Scope and Purpose

This course is technically called "Seminar in American National Government."  While a catchy title, that does not convey the subject matter clearly.  This is a graduate course on the American Presidency.  We will begin with a thorough examination of the role the presidency has played in American constitutionalism.  Then we will focus on the problem of consistency and change in the institution over time.  Our final focus will be on the variety of approaches scholars have taken to studying the presidency.

I'll start each class with a brief lecture on the week's topic, then a student will present findings from an additional reading (explained below), and then we will discuss the readings and topic thoroughly.  You need to come to class prepared to discuss the week's reading.  You should expect to make significant contributions to class discussion every week.

We will be discussing a wide range of issues in this class.  Sometimes you will have questions:  feel free to ask them.  Sometimes you will disagree with a classmate.  Sometimes you will disagree with me.  That's okay!  The political process is about deliberation and reasonable people often disagree.

Course Readings

The following seven books are required for the course and are available at the Associated Students Bookstore (underlined titles are links to publisher web pages--you are welcome to purchase the books from whatever source you like):

Ellis, Richard J.  1999.  Founding the American Presidency. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 0-8476-9499-2.

Fisher, Louis.  1995.  Presidential War Power.  Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 0-7006-0691-2.

Neustadt, Richard E. 1990.  Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents. New York: Free Press, 0-02-922796-8.

Nichols, David K. 1994. The Myth of the Modern Presidency. University Park: Penn State Press, 0-271-01317-6.

Pfiffner, James, and Roger H. Davidson. 2000. Understanding the Presidency, Second Edition. New York: Longman, 0-321-04493-2.

Pomper, Gerald M.  2001.  The Election of 2000.  New York: Chatham House, 1-889119-46-6.

Skowronek, Stephen. 1997. The Politics Presidents Make. Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard, 0-674-68937-2.

These books will be supplemented with reading from other sources.  These additional readings are available on the internet (see below).  You will need to access this syllabus on the web on a regular basis in order to complete the readings and other class assignments.

Course Requirements and Grading
For the University grading guidelines, consult the University Catalog.
Your grade for the course will be based on the following:
These are the outcomes:
weekly précis 100 pts. 25%
additional reading summary 60 pts. 15%
research paper 200 pts. 50%
participation 40 pts. 10%
400 pts. 100%
372-400 pts. 93-100%
360-372 90-92%
352-359 88-89%
332-351 83-87%
320-331 80-82%
312-319 78-79%
280-311 70-77%
0-279 pts. 69% and below

Weekly Précis:  Each week (beginning September 13th) you should come to class with a 1-2 page (typed, double spaced) précis of the week's assigned reading.  The précis should succinctly summarize the main points of the reading, raise questions for class discussion, and briefly comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the author's argument(s).  These are worth 10 points each for a total of 100 points.  Only the first two pages will be read.

Additional Reading Summary:  On September 13th we will sign up for additional readings.  You will be responsible for writing a thorough summary (5-6 pages) of the additional reading you select, due the day we discuss that topic.  Your summary should thoroughly describe the form and content of the author's argument.  You are responsible for bringing enough copies of the summary for distribution to the entire class (preferably double-sided).  You are also responsible for leading a discussion on that topic during class.  Since your book might not be readily available at Meriam Library (meaning that you might need to use inter-library loan), you need to get started on this early.

Research Paper:  On December 13th you will turn in a research paper (about 15-20 pages) that investigates a presidential crisis.  While you are not required to use one of the topics from this list, you do need to have your topic approved by the instructor.  Your bibliography must include at least 8 academic sources, including at least 2 articles from scholarly journals.  Your paper should thoroughly describe the crisis (demonstrating independent research) and should thoroughly address how each of the following factors played a role in the outcome of this crisis: the Constitution, the president's personality, and the time period (demonstrating an understanding of assigned class readings).  Your paper's thesis should make an argument about how scholars should interpret the president's actions.

Participation:   Class attendance and participation are vital elements of a graduate seminar.  You should come to each class prepared to discuss the week's readings.  We will be learning a lot through active participation in discussions--working though our ideas and interpretations outloud, with our classmates.  I will call on you to answer questions if I have to, but would prefer that you all participate voluntarily.  I'm not expecting "right" answers--sometimes there isn't a right answer; I am expecting thoughtful and intelligent answers that demonstrate you have done the reading and are paying attention.

Other Details
You must make arrangements with the instructor ahead of time if you cannot attend a class session or complete an assignment on time. Late assignments will be assessed a one letter grade penalty for each class period they are late.  Students are expected to complete their own work.  Academic dishonesty will result in a zero on the assignment, and possible further disciplinary action.  For questions or concerns about plagiarism, please ask me or consult the University Catalog's section on Academic Honesty.   If you are unhappy with a grade you receive on an assignment, do not understand my comments, or believe that I have mis-interpreted your writing, come talk to me.  It is always possible that I have erred. This syllabus is subject to change and/or revision during the academic term.  Reasonable alternative assignments will be developed for students with documented learning disabilities.  No cell phones.  No beepers.  No pagers.

Since even graduate students are not perfect writers , you are encouraged to take advantage of Chico State's Writing Center (Taylor Hall, 203).  Indeed, there are writing assignments every week, so you should look at this class as an opportunity to enhance your writing skills.  Writing well is a lifelong learning process, so don't feel like you have to be a "bad" writer to take advantage of student writing services, or that there is no need for help once you are a "good" writer.  There is always room for improvement!  Also, if you do not already own one, a writing guide/manual is an invaluable tool.  Some good examples are:

Hacker, Diana.  A Writer's Reference. Fourth Edition, St. Martin's Press. 1999.
Lunsford, Andrea, and Robert Connors.  EasyWriter: A Pocket Guide. Bedford/St.Martin's Press. 1998.
Schmidt, Diane.  Writing in Political Science:  A Practical Guide.  Second Edition, Addison, Wesley, Longman. 2000.
Scott, Gregory M., and Stephen M. Garrison.  The Political Science Student Writer's Manual. Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall. 2002.
Strunk, William, Jr.  Elements of Style.

You should also print out a copy of the CSU, Chico Department of Political Science Quick Reference Guide for Research Papers and Reports, by Diane E. Schmidt.

Semester Schedule

Useful Links

page last updated 1 August 2001.