Sam Houston State University

Department of Political Science


Course Syllabus (285:03 and 285:08)

American Public Policy

Fall 2006



Dr. Rina Majumdar              Office Hours:   

Office: 315L Academic Building 1         Tuesday: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Phone: (936) 294 – 4757           Thursday: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Home: (281) 261-2514           or by appointment



Class meets: AB1, Room 306, Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 am – 12:20 pm (285:03)

        Tuesday and Thursday 2:00 pm – 3:20 pm (285:08)



Course Description

This course will help to understand how public policies are made, implemented and their impacts on our lives. In this class, the stages in the policy making process will be examined along with that of the roles played by individuals, groups, politicians, bureaucrats and others in the passage of a public policy. Also, in discussions, examples would be drawn from several public policies but the main focus will be on environmental policies. Several environmental cases will be analyzed to gain understanding of the need for environmental policies, the politics involved in passage of environmental policies and their impact on the economy and on our lives.



Course Objectives

This course will examine the entire public policy making process. It will help students to understand the need for public policies, how they are formulated, identify the major actors in policy making and gain knowledge about the legitimization and implementation processes. Since public funding is required to support the programs aimed at attainment of policy objectives, policy discussions would help students to recognize the need for evaluation and how decisions are made to renew or reduce funding for public programs in a politically charged climate.



Required Text

1. Davis, Edwin S. 2003. Public Policy: The Basics. Edsal Publishing. ISBN: 0907219780.


2. Layzer, Judith A. 2006. The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy, second edition, Washington DC, CQ Press. ISBN: 1568028989.

Class Requirements

The course will emphasize on both lecture and discussions. You are expected to complete the reading assignments before the class. All assignments and examinations will focus solely on lectures, readings from the textbook and discussions in class.


Attendance and participation in discussions will be used in the final determination of your grade. Absences for legitimate causes will only be accepted. Students must inform of such absences prior to the class and make necessary arrangements to copy notes and turn in homework assignments. Too many absences may lead to a drop in grade.


In this course, students will be evaluated on a set of three exams, presentation of a short paper along with class attendance and participation. Paper and exam topics will be announced beforehand. Students may not leave the class during examination.



Class Conduct

Students will not talk or engage in any type of activity that might cause distraction in the class. Drinks are allowed in class but not food. Cell phones and pagers need to be turned off during class hours. Exceptions can be made only for those whose work may require them to stay connected with workplace or in emergency situations (please inform me in such cases).



Two Exams (20 points each) – 40 points     

Final Exam – 30 points

Short Paper/Presentation – 20 points

Class Attendance and Participation – 10 points



Final grades will be computed on the following basis:

A = 90 points and above

B = 80 – 89 points

C = 70 – 79 points

D = 60 – 69 points

F = 68 points and below



Short Paper Assignment

You have to write a paper on an environmental policy that is of interest to you. Students will be assigned into groups of two. The following guidelines need to be taken into account in writing this paper.


•  Introduce the policy and discuss the problem that helped to set the agenda for the policy

•  Discuss the role played by various actors in passage of this policy

•  Which agency or department is responsible for implementation of the policy? Discuss its functions.

•  Discuss the problems or obstacles (if any) encountered in implementation of the policy.

•  What measures (if any) have been taken to address the problem(s)?

•  How has this policy benefited the public? If not, explain why?

•  Your personal opinion of the policy.

•  Provide your own recommendations or suggestions to improve this policy.


The paper must be typed. It should be at least 8-10 double-spaced pages excluding table of contents, reference list, title page and appendices. The reference list should include at least five citations. The pages should have 1" margins, which is the default setting on most word processors. The font should be Times Roman and the size should be 12 point. All pages must be numbered. Include a title page with the title of the paper and your name typed at the bottom right-hand corner. Papers should be stapled in the upper left-hand corner. Do not use folders, binders, or clips.


After the paper has been written, group members will be asked to evaluate each other. Forms will be given out to each student for evaluation and they should be completed and returned to the instructor. Points will be deducted if students fail to return the evaluation form.



Oral Presentation

The papers have to be presented in class. A schedule for presentation will be circulated in class and each group will be given 15 minutes for presentation. Each member in a group has to present and will be evaluated. Students can use power point slides and other visual aids in their presentation. You may refer to your notes in presentation but do not read from the paper . Be prepared to answer questions that might be raised by other students in the class.


Study Tips:
There are several ways to do well in this class.

  1. Take good notes in class and review them at the end of the day to fill in information that you didn't take down. The best time to fill in your notes is when the material is fresh in your mind.
  2. Make note cards for the vocabulary in the lecture, the texts, and those provided on the study guides. There are quite a few terms that you need to know, particularly in the Davis book, and “flash cards” as the best way to memorize the material.
  3. A study guide will be provided for all 3 exams. Be sure to keep the study guides and all your study materials so you can use them for the final examination.
  4.  Find a study partner or two. Reviewing the material with a study partner is an excellent way to study for an exam or review your notes.
  5.   Don't wait until the night before the examination to study! Some of the terminology in the course is technical and new to you. Spend a few minutes every day reviewing the vocabulary.
  6. You can always meet with one of the Political Science tutors in the TA's office, AB1 318. Or call the TA's for an appointment at 936-295-1470. The tutor this semester is Jenna Henry.
  7.  Use the Sam Houston Writing Center for help writing your paper. This will require working on the paper ahead of time and not waiting until the last minute to write it. The Writing Center is paid for through student fees; thus, it is “your” Writing Center so you should utilize it.

Sam Houston Writing Center , located in Wilson 114, is open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday. Writing tutors will work with you one-on-one to help you generate, organize, or revise a draft of any assignment. Please drop by or call 936-294-3680 to schedule an appointment



Americans with Disabilities:

Requests for disability accommodations must be initiated by the student. A student seeking accommodations should go to the Counseling Center and Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in a timely manner. This instructor requires documentation from the Counseling Center in order to provide accommodations.




Cheating on the exams or the paper will result in administrative sanctions including being reported to the Dean of Students, failing the course, or academic expulsion.


This instructor takes academic dishonesty very seriously and will penalize students who engage in it. SHSU defines “cheating” as


“1)copying from another student's test paper, laboratory report, other report, or computer files, data listings, and/or programs.

2) Using, during a test, materials not authorized by the person giving the test.

3) collaborating, without authorization, with another student during an examination or in preparing academic work.

4) knowingly, and without authorization, using, buying, selling, stealing, transporting, soliciting, copying, or possessing, in whole or in part, the contents of an unadminstered test....

7) Purchasing, or otherwise acquiring and submitting as one's own work any research paper or other writing assignment prepared by an individual or firm.


5.312 ”Plagiarism” means the appropriation of another's work or idea and the unacknowledged incorporation of that work or idea into one's own work offered for credit.”




Course Outline

Please Note: The instructor reserves the right to alter the syllabus, including dates for examinations, presentations, and the due date of materials, as needed. These changes will be announced in class and may appear in Blackboard announcements. It is the student's responsibility to become aware of the changes.


Tentative Course Outline – Fall 2006

August 22 and 24     Introduction to Public Policy       Chap. 1 and 2 (Davis)


August 29 and 31     Conceptualizing Public Policy

        The Major Actors in Policy Process     Chap. 3 and 4 (Davis)


September 5 and 7     Varieties of Public Policies       Chap. 5 (Davis)


September 12 and 14     Characteristics of Policy Making     Chap. 6 and 7 (Davis)

        Agenda Setting and Implementation


September 19        ****First Exam****


September 21       Policy Implementation       Chap. 8 (Davis)


September 26 and 28     Policy Evaluation         Chap. 9 and 10 (Davis)

        Revenue, Spending and Deficits


October 3 and 5     Defining Problems in U.S. Envn. Policies   Chap. 1 and 2 (Layzer)

        Clean Air and Water Acts


October 10 and 12     Love Canal           Chap. 3 and 5 (Layzer)

        Environmental Justice


October 17 and 19     Oil Versus Wilderness       Chap. 6 and 8 (Layzer)

        Job vs. Environment       


October 24 and 26     Climate Change         Chap. 11 and 12

        Trade vs. Environment       (Layzer)


October 31        ****Second Exam****     


November 7 and 9     Market Based Solutions       Chap. 14 and 15

        Eco Based Solutions         (Layzer)


November 14 and 16     Environmental Backlash       Chap.13 and 18           Politics, Values, Changes       (Layzer)


November 21       Cont'd


November 23        Thanksgiving Holiday


November 28 and 30     Paper Presentation & Paper Due (Nov. 30, 2006)


December 5 and 7     Review for final exam


December 12        ****Final Exam****