School of Arts and Sciences




 Course Number

  POL 104-A

Course Title

  American Government

 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours


Name of Instructor

William Miller

Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
Tuesday, 6:30-9:15pm, Gailhac 2011

Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 6:30-9:30pm, Gailhac 2011

Office Hours, Location, Phone

Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:00 to 2:00pm  Ireton G107, (703) 284-1687. Always email ahead of time!

 E-mail and Web Site Email is always the best way to reach me! All announcements and assignments are posted on this web site, not on Canvas.

Course Description

An introductory survey and analysis of the political processes that describe the operations of the federal, state, and local branches of government. Intergovernmental relations are examined. Liberal Arts Core/University Requirements Designation: SS-1. (3)





By accepting this syllabus, you pledge to uphold the principles of Academic Integrity expressed by the Marymount University Community. You agree to observe these principles yourself and to defend them against abuse by others. Items submitted for this course may be submitted to for analysis.


For the benefit of current and future students, work in this course may be used for educational critique, demonstrations, samples, presentations, and verification.  Outside of these uses, work shall not be sold, copied, broadcast, or distributed for profit without student consent. 

Please address any special challenges or needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester. Students seeking accommodations for a disability must complete the required steps for obtaining a Faculty Contact Sheet from the Office of Student Access Services (SAS). Students are then responsible for meeting with their instructors at the beginning of the semester to review and sign the Faculty Contact Sheet and develop a specific plan for providing the accommodations listed. Accommodations cannot be granted to students who fail to follow this process. Appointments with the SAS director can be scheduled through the Starfish "Success Network" tab in Canvas. For more information, check the SAS website, e-mail, or call 703-284-1538 to reach the SAS director or an academic support coordinator.


When students are absent due to a crisis situation or unexpected, serious illness and unable to contact their individual instructors directly, the Division of Student Affairs can send out an Emergency Notification. To initiate an Emergency Notification, students should contact the Division of Student Affairs 703-284-1615 or Emergency Notifications are NOT appropriate for non-emergency situations (e.g. car problems, planned absences, minor illnesses, or a past absence); are NOT a request or mandate to excuse an absence, which is at the sole discretion of the instructor; and are NOT a requirement for student absences. If a student contacts instructors about an emergency situation directly, it is not necessary to involve the Division of Student Affairs as arrangements are made to resolve the absence.

For non-emergency absences, students should inform their instructors directly. 


Copies of your work in this course, including copies of any submitted papers and your portfolios, may be kept on file for institutional research, assessment, and accreditation purposes. All work used for these purposes will be submitted anonymously. 


Weather and Emergency closings are announced on Marymount’s web site:, through MUAlerts, area radio stations, and TV stations. You may also call the Weather and Emergency Hotline at (703) 526-6888 for current status. Unless otherwise advised by local media or by official bulletins listed above, students are expected to report for class as near normal time as possible on days when weather conditions are adverse. Decisions as to inclement closing or delayed opening are not generally made before 6:00 AM and by 3:00 PM for evening classes of the working day. Emergency closing could occur at any time making MUAlerts the most timely announcement mechanism. Students are expected to attend class if the University is not officially closed. If the University is closed, course content and assignments will still be covered as directed by the course instructor. Please look for communication from the course instructor (e.g., Canvas) for information on course work during periods in which the University is closed.


An introductory survey and analysis of the political processes that describe the operations of the federal, state, and local branches of government. Intergovernmental relations are examined.


2.  COURSE OBJECTIVES:  Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to:


·       General Learning Outcomes:


·       Skills - Critical Reason and Problem Solving

         1. Students will practice critical reasoning and problem solving through study of the structure and principles of American Government.

         2. Students will apply knowledge of political analysis of the American system of government.

         (Outcome will be measured by performance on short papers on topics such as presidential-congressional relations, the role of public opinion in governance, and/or the budget process.)


·       Attitudes – Civic Responsibility

1.     Students will understand that a system of self-government requires the exercise of civic responsibility to survive and succeed.

2.     Students will learn that civic responsibility is exercised by acting according to informed and principled choices.

(Outcome will be measured by demonstrating an understanding of these principles through in-class presentations and discussions)


·       Discipline-Specific Outcomes:

1.     Students will have an understanding of principles of American government; i.e. natural rights theory, guarantee of civil rights as contained in founding documents; i.e. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. 

2.     Students will know the structure and functions of American institutions of government.

3.     Students will understand citizen responsibility as it exists and is exercised in a system of self government.

(Outcome will be measured by identification, short answer, and objective questions on exams.)


Introductory social science (SS1) objectives. After completing this course, students will be able to:


1.        Critically engage competing explanations for change in the political systems in preparation for upper-division coursework.


·       Course Specific Outcomes  The design of this class is based on four parts: foundations, institutions, politics, and governance.    The course will begin by examining the rules, values, and principles behind our system of government.  The “politics” component of the course encompasses the entities outside of the formal government, including media, political parties, and interest groups. We will then turn our focus to government institutions: the Presidency, Congress, the Courts, and the bureaucracy.  We also examine the structure and function of state and local governments.  We will conclude the course by concentrating on public policy as a vehicle for governance.




Class lectures and extensive discussion.




Friday, February 17, is the last day to drop a class without academic record

Friday, March 24, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of a "W"


The final grade will consist of three components—your two best exam grades and the quiz-paper grade.

There will be two seventy-five minute mid-term examinations and one similar final examination. Each exam will be given only on the scheduled day during the semester. If you cannot take the mid-term at the scheduled time for reasons of sickness, legal, or job responsibilities, and if you provide me with satisfactory written documentation, you may take the exam immediately after the final exam on May 9th. Note: May 9th is not merely an alternate day for a mid-term. You must present me with documentation of a legitimate excuse—an official note from a medical professional, from a court or government officer, from a job supervisor. Otherwise, missing the mid-term results in a zero for the exam. If you cannot take the final on May 9th, talk to me now, on the first day of class!


There will also be a quiz at the beginning of each class. The quizzes will only be offered at the beginning of class; there will be no make-ups, so if your schedule does not permit you to get to class right at 6:30pm on Wednesday, we must talk now. If you take the quiz and then leave class early without permission, or if you did not bring your textbook or other assigned reading to class with you, I will not grade the quiz or consider that you took it. The quizzes will focus on the assigned readings and are aimed primarily at determining whether you have read the material. You must keep up with the weekly reading assignments if you want to pass the course!!  Your total quiz grade, consisting of the top nine quiz grades, will equal one exam grade in determining your final grade. If you do not understand something in the readings or lectures, ask questions.


Each of the exam grades and the quiz grade amount to a possible 100 points. Your final grade is based on the percentage of total points that you earn out of a total of 300 possible points: 90 to 100% = A-/A, 80 to 89%=B-/B/B+, 70 to 79%=C-/C/C+, 60 to 69%=D-/D/D+, below 60%=F.




Attendance: Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed a total of five absences, excused and/or unexcused. Students who miss six classes or more will receive an “F” in the course.   


Each unexcused absence beyond three—up to the absolute limit of five total absences—will result in a lowering of the final grade by three percentage points. To be excused, an absence must be explained to and approved by me, preferably before it occurs. Excused absences are typically those that are documented, such as medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Note: Occasionally coming to class late—even real late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without hard copies of the text for the day, or leaving class after taking an announced quiz without my prior permission, or spending time in class on internet sources unrelated to class, however, is considered an unexcused absence.


Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. I will not excuse your absence because you are simply not feeling well or because you choose to do something worthwhile other than come to class even if you inform me ahead of time. If you are coughing and sneezing and coming down with a cold or the flu, and you don't want to spread your virus to your classmates, your fellow students and I salute you! Staying home may be the right thing to do, but it is not an excused absence. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use them to stay home when you don't feel well or want to attend some other event or need to prepare for another class instead of going to my class. Use them for good reasons: that's what they are for.


The limit of nine total absences recognizes that excessive excused absences may also be a problem. You should discuss such situations with me well before the last month of the semester. This is not a distance learning class. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness keeps you away from class, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see the section on “Absenteeism in the 2016-2017 University Catalogue).


When in doubt about any of these policies, please come and talk to me. They have been formulated with our substantial commuter and working student population in mind and are intended to be fair to everyone. You should also review the University's policies on “Absenteeism” in the 2016-2017 University Catalogue.


Make-up Exams: The same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking mid-terms. My policy of giving makeup exams on the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a serious family or personal or employment emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam on the same day as the final exam. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible.





(This schedule is approximate and may be adjusted throughout the session. The dates for the mid-terms and the final will not be changed, however, unless absolutely necessary.)


CLASS ONE (January 17) Introduction to the course; basic political concepts, the United States Constitution, Federalism. (Turner text, Intro and ch. 1)

CLASS TWO (January 24) United States Constitution, cont., (Turner text, Intro, ch. 1, pp. 13-35, and ch. 2, pp. 43-57)

CLASS THREE (January 31) Public opinion and Political Participation (ch. 4 & 5) 

CLASS FOUR (February 7) Political Parties and Interest Groups (ch. 7 and Federalist #10)

CLASS FIVE (February 14) Campaigns and Elections (ch. 8 and readings)


CLASS SIX (February 21) MID-TERM EXAM Introduction to Congress and to the Doctrine of Separation of Powers


CLASS SEVEN (February 28) Congress (ch. 9 and Federalist #39)

CLASS EIGHT (March 14) Presidency (ch. 10 and readings)

CLASS NINE (March 21) Bureaucracy (ch. 11, ch. 2, pp. 58-67; and readings)

CLASS TEN (March 28) Policy, and Separation of Powers (ch. 14 and Federalist #51) 


CLASS ELEVEN (April 4) MID-TERM EXAM  Introduction to the Federal Judiciary

CLASS TWELVE (April 11) Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary (ch. 12; ch. 1, pp. 35-38)

CLASS THIRTEEN (April 25) Supreme Court and Civil Rights and Liberties (ch. 3 and readings)

CLASS FOURTEEN (May 2) Supreme Court Opinion; Politics and Media (ch.6 and readings)



FINAL EXAM The final will be given only on Tuesday, May 9th at 6:30 in Room 2011 of Gailhac, our usual classroom. Make your travel plans accordingly!




Charles Turner, D. Grier Stephenson, et al. Introduction to American Government. 8th ed. Redding, CA: BVT Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-1627516242


Daily Newspaper: online or paper version. I will also assign handouts and online articles for most classes.


Also Recommended:

James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, Reported by James Madison. New York: Norton, 1987. This is also on the “Thomas” website.


Stanley, Harold W., and Niemi, Richard G. Vital Statistics on American Politics. Latest edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, ----.


A few additional rules for the class:


For the benefit of the class and your classmates, the following rules regarding electronic devices also apply to this course:


1. At the beginning of class, turn your cell phones off and put them away.  If you are expecting an important call, inform me about it, put your phone on “Vibrate,” sit near the door, and, when the call comes, answer it outside the classroom.

2. It follows from the foregoing rule, but it must be separately stated: no talking and no texting on cell phones during class. If you do not follow this rule, I will publicly ask you to leave the room for the remainder of the class and will do my best to have you removed from the course for the rest of the semester.

3. No lap tops will be permitted in class without my prior permission. There have simply been too many problems associated with allowing access to the Internet during class time. You may use iPads, Nooks, Kindles, or other e-readers—any device on which the screen lies flat on the desktop—if you use the electronic version of the textbook.

4. Be sure to check your Marymount email address regularly! This is Marymount’s and my principal way of contacting you with important information. Perhaps you rely mostly on Yahoo, gmail, or some other provider, but check your mail daily to make sure you do not miss school information.


These rules are necessary to foster a suitable learning environment in the classroom during class. There are enough distractions with lawnmowers, air conditioners, and other outside forces to combat during lectures and discussions without these controllable distractions within the room.