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  • Eastern Michigan University

    PLSC 202: State and Local Government

    Winter 2015; Tuesday-Thursday, 11:00 to 12:15; Room 419 P-H

    Dr. Joe Ohren

    Office: 601K Pray Harrold e-mail: johren@emich.edu

    Phone: 734.487.1452 (Faculty Office), 734.487.3113 (PLSC); 734.487.3340 (Fax)

    Office Hours: T and Th: 8:30-10:30 am; other hours by appointment

    Course Objectives

    This is an introductory course in political science and presumes no previous college level course

    work in government. Students who have had an American Government course will have a point

    of reference and comparison for much of the class discussion. As the course title suggests,

    however, the focus here is on state and local governmental units. Given the number and

    diversity of such units, we will be emphasizing general patterns and common characteristics.

    Equally important, we will look to our own state and local units as examples, becoming more

    familiar with Michigan along the way and using a comparative perspective as a learning tool.

    The course is structured to enable students to achieve several learning objectives:

    1. Understand the role of state and local government institutions in American society;

    2. Distinguish between national, state and local governmental structures and political systems;

    3. Understand the function of and patterns in state constitutions and local charters;

    4. Explain the nature and functions of the American federal system;

    5. Describe the role of parties and interest groups in state and local political systems;

    6. Identify nomination and election procedures in the various states;

    7. Explain the role and powers of state and local executives;

    8. Describe the structure, functions, and procedures of state and local legislative bodies;

    9. Outline a typical state judicial system;

    10. Distinguish between the various types of local governments in the several states.

    This course also satisfies Area IV of EMUs General Education requirements (Knowledge of the

    Disciplines: Social Science). Students are expected to accomplish the following in these classes:

    Acquire an understanding of social science methods and of how they are used to engage in the systematic study of society and culture.

    Understand and compare formal and informal social and political structures, organizations, and institutions.

    Explore and understand power relationships and the impact of social change on different groups and on society in general.

    Develop an appreciation of different interpretations of contemporary issues, institutions, or structures.

    Use social science methods and content to interpret and analyze data and reports in the media and to make informed decisions regarding local, national, and international issues.

    Use basic social scientific research techniques to examine and present information in a clear and concise manner.

    Understand the relation between qualitative and quantitative research.

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    Course Requirements, Assignments, Grading, and Other Issues

    Text: Governing States and Localities, Kevin Smith and Alan Greenblatt, Fourth

    Edition, CQ Press, 2014

    The text is available at local bookstores. Additional readings are listed by date and are available on

    the course web site or will be provided in class. Since state and local governments are in the news

    every day, I would encourage you to read a daily/weekly newspaper and share any interesting issues

    or insights with the class, and I will do the same (these too are fair game on exams). Digital editions

    of the New York Times are available through the my.emich system and I have found that there are

    almost always articles about state and local issues in the Times that provide fuel for discussions.

    Expectations: The course will follow a lecture-discussion format generally reflecting the

    outline of topics and readings below. Readings should be completed prior to class discussion,

    and regular attendance is expected. Based on past experience, attendance is highly correlated

    with success in the course. Reading topics and assignments listed are subject to change, but if

    that becomes necessary I will try to give you ample notice.

    At times during the course we will be discussing issues that prompt strong feelings; however,

    discussions should be civil, and disagreements should be based on evidence and logic, and not

    personal. My job is to organize material, highlight and extend (but not replace) your reading, and

    get you to think. Getting you to think often means that I will argue positions that are not my own.

    Unless authorized, electronics/digital devices (e.g., cell phones, laptops) cannot be used during class;

    turn them off and stow them beneath your seat once class begins. Note taking is easy since on most

    occasions I post my outlines or handouts ahead of classes. If you print the notes, bring them to class,

    and expand on them, then your subsequent retyping becomes your first careful review.

    Grading Policy: I will be relying on three take home exams, equally wieghted, with

    approximate dates noted in the outline, accounting for 90% of your grade. The exams will cover

    readings as well as classroom discussion, and make-ups will only be given under exceptional

    circumstances and with advance approval. The balance of the grade will reflect completion of a

    policy paper or an observation of your local governing board; both assignments will be discussed

    in some detail in class, but are described briefly below.

    As the narrative above suggests, you have two alternatives for completing the final 10% of your

    course grade. For those so inclined and with the necessary time and transportation, you may

    complete a paper describing your attendance at a meeting of a local governing board, due and

    discussed on April 2, 2015. I have attached a handout describing the assignment in more detail.

    As an alternative, you may select and complete one of the exercises/policy questions noted in

    bold italic font in the outline and summarized at the end of the outline. The intent is to become

    something of an expert on a specific topic; of course I will be happy to meet with you

    individually to give you some guidance on the topics. We of course will discuss the assignment

    in more detail in class.

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    In summary, grading will be based on:

    Exam One 30%

    Exam Two 30%

    Exam Three 30%

    Governing Board Report 10%


    Policy paper 10%

    EMU Writing Support The University Writing Center (115 Halle Library) offers one-to-one writing consulting for both

    undergraduate and graduate students. Students can make appointments or drop in between the hours of 9

    a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Students should bring a

    draft of what theyre working on and their assignment. Check the schedule online for Center hours.

    The UWC also offers small group workshops on various topics related to writing (e.g., Reading in College:

    Tips and Strategies; Incorporating Evidence; Revising Your Writing). Workshops are offered at various

    times Monday through Friday in the UWC. To register for a workshop, click the "Register" link from the

    UWC page at http://www.emich.edu/english/writing-center.

    The Academic Projects Center (116 Halle Library) offers one-to-one consulting for students on writing,

    research, or technology-related issues. No appointment is required students can just drop in. The APC is

    open 11-5 Monday-Thursday. Additional information about the APC can be found at

    http://www.emich.edu/apc. Students visiting the Academic Projects Center should also bring with them a

    draft of what theyre working on and their assignment sheet.

    The UWC also has several satellite sites across campusin Sill Hall for COT students; in Marshall for

    CHHS students; in Pray-Harrold for CAS students; in Porter for CHHS and COE students; and in Owen

    for COB students. The locations of these sites and their hours will be posted on the UWC web site


    Academic Integrity Academic dishonesty, including all forms of cheating and/or plagiarism, will not be tolerated in this class.

    Penalties for an act of academic dishonesty may range from receiving a failing grade for a particular

    assignment to receiving a failing grade for the entire course. In addition, you may be referred to the

    Office of Student Judicial Services for discipline that can result in either a suspension or permanent

    dismissal. The Student Conduct Code contains detailed definitions of what constitutes academic

    dishonesty, and it can be accessed online at www.emich.edu/sjs

    Classroom Management Issues Students are expected to abide by the Student Conduct Code and assist in creating an environment that is

    conductive to learning and protects the rights of all members of the University community. Incivility and

    disruptive behavior will not be tolerated and may result in a request to leave class and referral to the

    Office of Student Services (SJS) for discipline. Examples of inappropriate classroom conduct include

    repeatedly arriving late to class, using a cellular phone, or talking while others are speaking.

    Students with Disabilities If you wish to be accommodated for your disability EMU Board of Regent


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