us parties & elections (301-001), fall 2013 syllabus

Contact Information & Office Hours

  • Office: Moseley House | Virginia Commonwealth University [1001 Grove Avenue | Richmond, Virginia 23284]
  • Email:
  • Office Hours: Given that I am an adjunct professor, we’ll do office hours in one of two ways.
    • By appointment — speak with me in class or email me to make the necessary arrangements.
    • Via videoconference — my Skype ID is “sergeantclark.” I can also be reached via FaceTime at “” Feel free to use either one, but again it’s best to speak with me or email me first so that we can set a time to meet.

Basis for Course Grade

  • Exam 1 (foundations of American political system, parties, and elections): 30% of semester grade.
  • Exam 2 (dynamics, mechanisms, and machinations of US political parties): 40% of semester grade.
  • Research Paper: 10% of semester grade.
  • Policy Briefing: 10% of semester grade.
  • Participation: 10% of semester grade.

Guidelines for Analytical Papers


  1. Your paper must be between 1,000 and 1,200 words long.
  2. Proofread your work. I’ll tolerate one typographic error per page — when I hit the fifth typo or grammatical error, I’ll start taking off one point per mistake.
  3. Papers must be typed, double spaced, with one inch margins and either 10 or 11 point font.
  4. You must email me a copy of your paper AND submit it via Blackboard using the SafeAssign function.

I highly recommend you avail yourself of the assistance obtainable from The Writing Center ( It is vitally important that while at VCU you develop strong writing skills.


  1. Analyze — do not summarize it. This requires you do the following.
  2. You must identify an outcome (real or expected) and its causes. Be precise and explicit in your presentation of both the outcome and its causes. 
  3. Describe the sequence of events that the connect the causes with the outcome.  Again, you must be precise and explicit. Based on your research, you must provide a detailed sequence of events that connect cause and outcome.
  4. Discuss the implications of the outcome, causes, and the causal logic that connects them.
  5. Identify a prescribed response (solution) that ought to be taken.
  6. Describe the response’s (solution’s) sequence of actions and how these actions will affect the outcome.
  7. Discuss the implications of the proposed response (solution).
  8. As you construct your argument, here are some things to consider. What kind of evidence are you using to support your argument (interviews, personal experience, newspaper and journal articles, speeches, etc.)? Is your argument convincingly backed up with evidence, or are you expecting the reader just to take your word for it? What assumptions, either theoretical or policy-oriented, are you making? If the assumptions were changed, how would your argument change?

Ancillary, Yet Important

  1. Make sure you have a subject and verb in every sentence.
  2. A long sentence is not necessarily a better sentence — each sentence should express only one thought. Do not be afraid to break up a long sentence into two or three shorter ones. It will usually flow better that way. Try to keep your sentences to less than 22 words.
  3. BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT (BLUF)! That means, state your main point/conclusion, with a summary of your supporting evidence at the outset. You are not writing a mystery novel. The reader will understand what you are trying to convey more easily if he or she has some idea of what’s coming.
  4. Don’t use a bigger word when a smaller one will do. For example, why use the word “utilize” — why not just say “use”? Of course, if a five-syllable word is the only way to convey your meaning, then by all means use (not utilize!) it, but remember, I am interested in the content and sophistication of your ideas and analysis, not your skill in using a thesaurus.
  5. Cite the source for any information that isn’t your idea or argument, or a common fact. I don’t care which format you use, so long as you use a common style.

Guidelines for Policy Briefing

The policy briefing is designed to provide you with an opportunity to develop your ability to present a clear and concise argument orally in front of a group.

Start with the argument you constructed for your research paper. You will need to present the outcome, cause, and causal logic. You should then focus on the most important event, the pivotal event that shaped the outcome, and draw attention to it. Then you will need to present your response (solution) and how it will alter the pivotal event you identified. You will then need to discuss how altering that pivotal event will affect the reset of the sequence of events and the overall outcome. Be sure to cite your supporting evidence.

Your performance will be evaluated with the following criteria:

  • how well you identify the problem and outcome, including the causal logic that explains its occurrence;
  • how well you explain your response or solution, and the casual logic that you expect will bring it about;
  • your use of evidence in support of your argument;
  • your use, and the quality, of your slides;
  • your poise and speaking voice;
  • your ability to answer posed questions.

For the record, the first three are much more important than the final three.


You participation will be assessed on the basis of the quality and quantity of your engagement. It is not enough to be in the room — attendance is not the same as participation. In addition to classroom discussions, each topic will have its own webpage for discussion. To access them, click on the title for each week’s topic. I’ll start off each online “discussion” by making a few comments about the text. My comments are meant to give you an idea of what to look for in the readings — i.e. the main take-aways. I then expect you to pick up on my comments and discuss the work via back-and-forth postings using the reply feature. You should use these online discussions as a mechanism for helping one another with the readings and as a means for working out difficult concepts.

You can start earning your participation grade by leaving a reply below at the bottom of this page letting me know you’ve read and understand the syllabus. Should you have questions about the syllabus or course, please ask it in your response to this page.

Grading Policies

Your papers, policy briefing, and participation will be graded on the following scale: A (100-90); B (89.99-80); C (79.99-70); D (69.99-60); F (59.99-0).

The course will not be graded on a curve.

I encourage you to speak with me about any questions you may have about your grades.

If you would like me to re-grade an assignment, you must submit a written request,explaining why you believe you did not receive the proper grade. If I re-grade an assignment, I reserve the right to raise or lower your grade. I will not raise a grade for the sole purpose of changing a letter grade.

Late assignments will not be tolerated. Your grade will be lowered one-half of a letter grade for each day it is late. If you do not complete the assignment, you will receive a zero.

There are only two exceptions to the late-assignment policy: illness or family emergency. If either of these circumstances applies, you must provide written documentation (such as a doctor’s note if you are ill), and you must communicate with me before the assignment is due (i.e., emailing me on the morning the assignment is due and saying you are sick is not acceptable for avoiding a penalty). I am willing to accommodate documented requests, but you must communicate with me before the assignment is due. If an assignment falls on a day you will be observing a religious holiday, we will work together to find an alternative time to complete the assignment. You must communicate with me about holidays prior to the original due date.

Email Policy

Electronic mail or “email” is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective, and environmentally aware manner. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the University as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of University-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety:

VCU Honor SystemPlagiarism and Academic Integrity 

The VCU honor system policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty, and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to his policy, “members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity.” In addition, “All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

  • Agree to be bound by the Honor System policy and its procedures;
  • Report suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System;
  • Support an environment that reflects a commitment to academic integrity;
  • Answer truthfully when called upon to do so regarding Honor System cases, and,
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding specific information in Honor System cases.

Most importantly, “All VCU students are presumed upon enrollment to have acquainted themselves with and have an understanding of the Honor System.” (The VCU INSIDER, VCU Honor System 131-132).

The Honor System in its entirety can be reviewed on the Web at or it can be found in the 2012-2013 VCU Insider at

Of particular importance is Section III which details “Possible Violations.”

These include:

  • Plagiarism: Representing the words, ideas, facts, opinions, theories, illustrations, tables or any part of another’s work as one’s own on academic assignment without customary and proper acknowledgment of the source;
  • Cheating: Receiving, giving and attempting to receive or give unauthorized assistance, such as materials, devices, information, notes or sources, on academic matters;
  • Lying: Transferring, transmitting or communicating any false statements concerning academic matters;
  • Stealing: Taking or making academic materials inaccessible, thereby temporarily or permanently depriving others of its use or possession, and;
  • Facilitation: Helping or soliciting another person to commit an act of academic dishonesty.

In this class, because coursework will be collaborative at times, particular issues of integrity arise. You should not copy or print another student’s work without permission. Any material (this includes IDEAS and LANGUAGE) from another source must be credited, whether that material is quoted directly, summarized, or paraphrased. In other words, you should respect the work of others and in no way present it as their own.

Any violations will be immediately submitted to Office of Judicial Affairs and Academic Integrity and will likely result in penalties that exceed the presumed benefit of any of the above infractions.

Keep this in mind, The Writing Center ( can provide assistance on citation or other aspects of writing papers.  Ignorance about how or when to cite sources is not an excuse for academic dishonesty.

Student Conduct in the Classroom

According to the VCU Resource Guide, “The instructional program at VCU is based upon the premise that students enrolled in a class are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other students. Accordingly, in classrooms, laboratories, studies, and other learning areas, students are expected to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner so that the faculty member can proceed with their [sic] customary instruction. Faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) may set reasonable standards for classroom behavior in order to serve these objectives. If a student believes that the behavior of another student is disruptive, the instructor should be informed.” Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the University Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having “…in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university…” See and the VCU Resource Guide for more information:

Certainly the expectation in this course is that students will attend class with punctuality, proper decorum, required course material, and studious involvement.

The VCU Resource Guide contains additional important information about a number of other policies with which students should be familiar, including Guidelines on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment, Grade Review Procedure, and Ethics Policy on Computing. It also contains maps, phone numbers, and information about resources available to VCU students. The VCU Resource Guide is available online at the link above or through the Division of Student Affairs.

The above can be reduced to this: there is an expectation that you will treat your fellow classmates with respect. In both the classroom and online, you must be polite. Feel free to challenge each other and to disagree passionately — if so moved. Just make sure you are courteous in your tone as you do so.

Students with Disabilities

SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 require that VCU provide an “academic adjustment” and/or a “reasonable accommodation” to any individual who advises us of a physical and/or mental disability. To receive accommodations, students must declare their need for disability-related accommodations with the Disability Support Services Office (DSS). The DSS office is located in the Student Commons, Room 102. The office phone number is 828-2253. The Director of Disability Support Services is Joyce Knight. More information is available at the Disability Support Services webpage:

If you have a physical or mental impairment that requires an academic adjustment or accommodation, arrange a meeting with me at your earliest convenience. Additionally, if your coursework requires you to work in a lab environment, you should advise me or department chairperson of any concerns you may have regarding safety issues related to your limitation(s). This statement applies not only to this course but also to every other course in this University.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment

Military students may receive orders for short-term training or deployment. These students are asked to inform and present their orders to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies at and

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University

Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes will give their professors their schedule in the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council (IAC) strongly encourages professors to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges professors to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Campus Emergency information

If you are on campus this summer, be familiar with the following emergency actions.

  1. What to Know and Do To Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU: Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts ( Keep your information up-to-date. Within the classroom, the professor will keep her phone on to receive any emergency transmissions.
  2. Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
  3. Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities. Within the classroom, follow your professor’s instructions.
  4. Know where to go for additional emergency information (
  5. Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234). Report suspicious activities and objects.

Important Dates 

Important dates for the Fall 2013 semester are available at:

Note the last day to drop a course is 28 August 2013. The last day to withdraw from a course is 01 November 2013.

VCU Mobile 

The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smart phone or for more information, please visit

Class Registration Required for Attendance

Please remember that students may only attend those classes for which they have registered, this includes online activity and courses. Faculty may not add students to class rosters. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.

welcome syllabus outline resources email the professor

36 responses to “us parties & elections (301-001), fall 2013 syllabus

  1. Dr. Clark,
    Just wanted to remind you that this is a not an online summer course (see Excused absences for for students representing the university…see I was paying attention). Also I just checked out the classroom, it looks like we’re going to be a couple of seats short as there’s only 38 seats for a class of 40 registered. Just wanted to give you a quick heads up.

  2. Dr. Clark,
    I have read over the syllabus and think this will be a challenging but interesting class. When thinking about our research papers should we focus on current events and a proposed policy change in reference to one of those or can we propose a change in reference to an event in the past-such as civil rights? I like to start thinking about my paper topics before I get too bogged down with other work in the semester! Thanks!

    • Elizabeth, I’d like you to focus on a current event or proposed policy change. If I understand your question correctly, yes, you could talk about a proposed change to a past event. That would be fine too. But I don’t want you working on explaining a past event per se. I want you to go beyond that. For example, you could address how you might modify a past policy in order to change current outcomes. Which is what I think you were asking about. Make sense?

  3. Hello Dr. Clark,

    Just touching base to show I’ve read the syllabus. One question though – is participating in the online discussions considered an assignment or is it optional? (Well, I suppose all assignments are “optional”, but will we be penalized if we aren’t contributing to each one?)


  4. Matthew, participation in the online discussion is technically optional. There is no penalty for not engaging online. That said, the online discussion is another way to earn participation points. To be explicitly clear, grades start at zero and students earn points. I don’t take them away. The online element is provided as another venue for earning participation credit.

  5. Dr. Clark,
    Just letting you know that I have read over the syllabus. I am looking forward to this class this semester and even more lively discussions.

    Thank you,

  6. Dr. Clark,
    I have read over the syllabus. I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I have any questions.

    Best, Alanna Melia

  7. Dr. Clark,

    I have read the syllabus. If I have any questions I will contact you.



  8. Dr. Clark,

    I have read and understand the syllabus. I like what I have seen of your class so far and I think that it will be a very informative and enjoyable class.

    Kevin Frank

  9. Dear Dr. Clark
    I have read the syllabus and I understand what is being asked of me. My only question is to do with the tests; how are they structured and is it writing based rather than multiple choice?

  10. Dr. Clark,

    I have read over the syllabus and I believe I understand all that is being asked of us. I look forward to the challenging yet rewarding year ahead!


  11. Joseph Roger Clark, PHD,
    Just wanted you to know that I’ve read the syllabus for your class and am looking forward to a super semester.

    Jacob Kimmel

  12. Dr. Clark,
    I have read the syllabus and explored the website and I like it more than blackboard already.

    Chris Rodgers

  13. Just wanted to let you know I’ve read over the syllabus & it’s looking good, see you in class

  14. Dr. Clark,

    I was just able to enroll into your course at the last few minutes of add/drop. I just read the syllabus and looking forward to this course. I will try and find some time with you via e-mail to meet and play catch up on the first 3 classes I have missed.

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