Jim Massey   Fall 2006



Office:     AB-1, 318-C

Office Phone:   936-294-1470

Email: or


Office Hours:   Monday/Wednesday     10-10:45, By Appointment

Tuesday/Thursday     9:30-10:45; 3:30-5

Friday         By Appointment Only


Please note: I will be assisting with two POL 285 courses, also on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11-12:20 and 2-3:20. Your best bet is to either try and meet with me immediately after class or after 3:30 those days, or schedule an appointment Monday-Friday.


Text:     Patterson, Thomas E. The American Democracy ( Texas Edition), 7 th Ed.

Optional:   Oleszek, Walter J. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process, 6 th Ed.


Main Course Objective :


To provide students with basic knowledge of the structural and philosophical foundations of American and Texas governments, in addition to a more detailed understanding of the legislative process.


Focal Points :

•  History of the American system of government and the US Constitution

•  Components

•  The President

•  Congress

•  The Supreme Court

•  Federal-State relations

•  The Texas Constitution

•  Current Events and Issues



Attendance Policy : You are all adults, and I cannot force you to be here. However, attendance is mandatory, especially if you intend to do well in this course. If you find yourself unable to attend class on a regular basis, you need to drop the course and take it at a later date. I will not drop you—this is your responsibility.


I allow a maximum of four (4) Tuesday or Thursday absences with no penalty. For each absence beyond four, I will deduct 5 points from your final grade. For those of you who make the extra effort to attend class every day , you will have 5 points added to your final average, no questions asked. All you have to do is show up for class.


Life happens, and things come up that will prevent you from making it to class. I will consider as “excused” any absences in which a legitimate medical situation arises, attending a sports- or other school-related function for which you are a participant, military reserve “drill” or ROTC function, or any other similar situation for which I give prior approval. However, I reserve the right to limit such excused absences with suitable notification from a doctor or other official within one week (7 calendar days) of your return to class. Put simply, do not miss class and try to bring me a doctor's note 2 months later—I will not accept it and your absence(s) will be unexcused.


Tardiness : This is an early class, and I understand that many of you may not be “morning” people. However, my policy on this is simple. Class starts promptly at 8am. If you are late, do not bother trying to walk in and disrupt the lecture (or class discussion)—you will not be allowed in the classroom and counted absent. If you cannot handle getting here on time, it is your responsibility to find another section more suited to your sleep/commuting requirements.


Considering the early time class is held, you are more than welcome to bring coffee or whatever form of caffeine you choose. However, if you make a mess, please clean it up.


Academic Honesty : .

Bottom line: do not get caught cheating. You will fail this course in addition to other possible punitive action, to be determined by the University.


Students with Disabilities :

If you are a student with a qualifying disability, please see me after class, and contact the Counseling Center (next to the Farrington and Lee Drain Buildings , or call 936-294-1720).


Student Absences on Religious Holy Days :

See me if this applies to you.


Course Requirements and Assessment :

The format for this class will be a combination of lecture and class discussion. You will have twelve (12) weekly assignments, three (3) exams, and a group project.


Daily/Weekly : Current Events. You will be required to keep up with current events every class, with the exception of test days. You are responsible to find an article from a newspaper, magazine, website, etc. and write a short—NO MORE THAN ½ PAGE—brief on it. The article must be relevant to national, state, or local governments in order to receive credit. I expect the brief to be typed, double-spaced, with proper grammar, spelling, etc. Do not hand me some instant-message-drunken-stupor hen-scratch and expect to receive credit. Be sure to include your source (not included in your half-page limit).


There will be a total of twelve (12) assignments collected randomly throughout the semester, of which ten (10) will be graded for a possible total of 100 points. This will count as one test grade. If you turn in ten and choose to not do the last two, you have that option. If you are absent, you may not make the grade up. HOWEVER, if you choose to take that extra step and turn in all 12 current events, I will count all of them, giving you the opportunity to have a maximum of 120 of 100 points.


Exams : There will be a total of three (3) exams this semester, including the final. Each exam will cover materials addressed in class discussion, lecture, and any handouts, and will count for a possible 100 points. Exam format will consist of 45 multiple-choice/true-false/matching questions worth two (2) points each. You are responsible to know all the material from the class lectures as well as your daily reading assignments. There will also be a current event question that you will have to brief me on worth an additional ten points.


All exams will use the 100-question scantron form (#882-E).


Final Exam : The final exam will NOT be comprehensive, and will only cover the material after the second exam. For those of you who do well all semester and earn an “A” going into the final—you will be considered exempt and will not have to take it.


Group Project : This will be covered in detail in a separate handout, and will be worth 100 points. NOTE: Absences during final presentations of the group project will not be tolerated. Any student who misses class will have 15 points deducted from their final project score for each day missed.


Final Course Grade : You will be able to figure your own grade using either the 400 or 500 point scale (depending on if you exempt the final or not). Remember, attendance points are awarded or deducted as outlined above. Normal rounding applies, and there will be no curve.


90-100%     A
80-89%     B
70-79%     C
60-69%     D
59 or below     F



Now that we are through the administrative details, we can move to the more fun aspects of this course. Yes, I said fun. This is not a class on politics, but on political origins and processes. Part of our discussions will likely head in the direction of personal political beliefs (ideology). Debate within reason is not a problem, as long as it remains relevant to the topic being discussed and does not demean or attack your fellow classmates. While free speech reigns supreme, I reserve the right to limit or terminate discussion at any time.


The course material to be covered may not follow chapter-by-chapter in your textbook, so it is important to keep up with your weekly reading assignments, and pay attention to the schedule outlined below. I reserve the right to modify content or material covered for each exam period, but you can rest assured that all tested material will be covered in lecture or your reading/current events assignments.


Allocation of time for homework : We have 15 weeks (16, if you count the Thanksgiving Holiday) to cover all of the needed material, including your group project. This should be more than enough time, especially if you manage your time properly—even if you are taking more than 12 hours.


How to read your text : This may seem like a pointless section, but you would be surprised how many people really do not know how to cover a large amount of material effectively. So…


  1. Review the terms and questions at the end of the chapter. This gives you a general idea of what material is going to be covered in that chapter—and what could be tested.
  2. Keep an eye open for this material when you read.
  3. Highlight key terms and subjects, especially if you are not familiar with the material. This is your textbook. Mark in it and make notes—make it yours and put it to work for you.
  4. Review the terms and questions again after you have read the material.
  5. Study your notes and chapter reviews for your exams.


Schedule : Remember, I reserve the right to adjust the calendar as needed. You will receive sufficient notification of any changes.




***All grades will be posted with the Registrar no later than the 15 th ***





In-Class Survey


  The last page of this syllabus contains questions for a non-scientific in-class survey, the results of which we will be using for structuring our class project. Please answer each question honestly and to the best of your ability—if you do not fall into a certain category, select the closest match. We will discuss the results—and the reason for the survey—sometime during the second week of class.