PSCI 1050 - Course Policies


  PSCI 1050




Course Description

How do we consume information from the world of politics? How do we process it? Make sense of it? How do we cope with information overload? Alternative facts? Fake news? Do you ever get the feeling you're being manipulated? Do we really live in a post-truth world? Our task this semester is to address these questions and learn strategies for coping with them.

Learning Outcomes

  • You will gain increased understanding of the complexity of political decision-making.
  • You will gain experience in thinking and arguing logically, evaluating competing claims, and forming your own opinions.
  • You will learn how to analyze, evaluate, and account for differences among sources.
  • You will be able to communicate your own position with evidence and coherence.
  • You will learn to incorporate the following guidelines in your thinking:
  1. Complex problems have complex and multiple causes. Simplistic explanations lead to simplistic solutions that don't work.
  2. Correlation is not causation. (It might suggest a causal relationship, but it's not a given.)
  3. Evidence and inference guide our conclusions. Not ideology, not preconceptions and not emotion.
  4. There is never only one side to a conflict. Rarely is one party always right. 

In addition, this course fulfills the Western Essential Studies category of Inquiry and Engagement: Critical Thinking in the Arts and Humanities. Learning outcomes include:

      1. Increase foundational  knowledge of the Social Sciences, Humanities, or the Arts.
      2. Develop creative and critical thinking.

Academic Freedom:

You have the right to engage in reasoned disagreement with me without any penalty to your grade. I have the right to challenge any belief, ideology, worldview, or attitude you have, including those beliefs you hold sacred. Students likewise have this right with each other and me. Everyone has the right to express his or her views without fear of bullying or reprisal. I or another student may ask you to support your view with evidence, logic, or an expression of values, just as you may ask of me or anyone else in class. Respectful disagreements and challenges should not be seen as attacks or insults, but as part of the reasoned dialogue we engage in as students, professors, and citizens. Look at disagreements as an opportunity to explore your own views as well as attempt to see an alternative viewpoint as if it were your own, even if only temporarily in order to understand it better. Understand that intellectual discomfort is a stepping stone to better understanding all points of view – even our own. And it is a critical foundation for learning.


All readings can be found under the schedule of readings and assignments. There is no assigned text or book to purchase. Course reserves ("e-reserves") are entirely electronic in pdf format. To access them, you'll need the password "thinking." Print them or read them on your device.


As far as I know, all videos in this course -- whether mine or out on the internet -- are captioned. To turn them on, click on the cc button at the bottom of the video. If you are visually impaired, let me know and I will take care to read all quotes and describe important graphics and maps.

Requirements and Grading

Attendance: 20% (2% each class)

Quizzes: 20% (5% each)

Assignments: 25% (5% each)

Bibliography: 10%

Exam I: 10%

Exam II: 10%

Final Exam: 5%

Attendance, Quizzes and Oops Passes

A high priority in this class is placed on attendance; it will be taken each class session. In addition, assignments are expected to be in on time except for extraordinary circumstances.* Penalties for late papers are high. If turned in later than the midnight deadline of the due date, and any time in the ensuing 24 hour period, the penalty is one full grade. An additional full grade is deducted if turned in during the second 24 hour period after the deadline, and so on.

*Extraordinary circumstances do not include:

  • I got behind and it took longer to do than I thought.
  • My computer froze (save, save, save).
  • My computer crashed (backup, backup, backup).
  • The internet was congested when I tried to access the sites (see point #1).
  • I had other deadlines that week (see point #1).

However, given the fact that we are in extraordinary times (The Time of Covid), each student will have four "oops" passes that can be used to compensate for missed classes or deadlines (think: get-out-of-jail-free cards if you know the Monopoly game). Each "oops" will give you one additional week to complete the assignment or quiz, no questions asked. Note that they do not apply to exams; if you must miss an exam deadline, you must let us know in advance to be able to make it up.

Participation and Class Behavior

This class will be conducted in both lecture and seminar style.

Your behavior in class should be guided by a single principle: nothing you do should be disruptive or distracting to others in class. Chatting with your neighbor is one such activity, as is reading a book. Please take note of the electronics policy below.


Exams in this class will be in essay format with some identification/short answer questions.

Make-up Exams and Quizzes

If you do not notify me in advance, and if I do not approve of the reason for being absent, you will not be allowed to make up exams and quizzes unless you use an oops pass. Excused absences include significant illness, death in the family, and the like. Excuses not accepted: having to work, a major assignment due in another class, a planned family or personal vacation, oversleeping, volunteer activity or a student activities event, and so on.

Laptops and Other Electronic Devices

This class has a mixed policy on electronic devices. There may be designated "open devices" and "no devices" periods. In the former, you will be allowed – even encouraged – to use devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to support discussion or project work. In such cases, I will clearly indicate that it is an "open devices" period. Otherwise, assume that class is in "no device" mode.

There are times during the "open devices" periods when it will be to your advantage to have a device on hand. I will try to forecast ahead of time if and when an open device period is coming. Smartphones are the easiest devices to carry, but some sites are not smartphone-friendly. Laptops and tablets are more suitable, but are more of a hassle to haul around and add to costs if a student already has a phone. But I realize that not all of you have more than one – or even one – type of device in your hands. If you do not have either a laptop, tablet or smartphone, see me.

The reason for the no-devices periods is twofold. First, although sometimes students wish to take notes on a device, it is much more commonly the case that they are surfing or social networking. Second, although we think we multitask well, in fact we are not as good at it as we imagine. So it is not surprising that there is good evidence that student grades suffer when they are using devices for non class-related activities. There is also very good evidence that device usage distracts other students. For these reasons, electronic device usage is banned in this class except  during "open devices" periods. (See footnotes at bottom of page for references.)

There is one exception. If you have a learning disability that can be aided by technology, let me know. In such a case, and with confirmation from the Office of Student Services, I will be happy to make an exception. But I will require you to sit in the front row of class (but appropriately social distanced).

New York Times

WMU maintains a group subscription to the New York Times. Whether you agree with the editors' politics (they tend to be critical of President Trump, for example, although they make a point of having both liberal and conservative columnists), it is one of the best newspapers in the country. To get the free online subscription, follow the instructions at

Religious Observances

WMU has a religious observances policy that I will follow as much as possible. Note that advance notification is essential, the more the better.

Students with Disabilities

I will make every effort to accommodate students with verified disabilities. Please see me to discuss it.


I will communicate with you often. You are responsible for monitoring communications. To communicate with me or Maria, you should use email (do not leave voice messages on my office phone). I will do everything I can to answer your email message promptly.

Submission of Papers and Assignments

All papers and assignments in the class will be submitted electronically to through the elearning dropbox. I will not accept hard copies under any circumstance. Papers must be either completed in Microsoft Word or be fully compatible with it. PDF files are also acceptible. Typically, Microsoft Works will not be acceptable.

Academic Integrity

Students are responsible for making themselves aware of and understanding the University policies and procedures that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. The academic policies addressing Student Rights and Responsibilities can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s) and if you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with your instructor if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.

Students and instructors are responsible for making themselves aware of and abiding by the “Western Michigan University Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Stalking Policy and Procedures” related to prohibited sexual misconduct under Title IX, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Campus Safe. Under this policy, responsible employees (including instructors) are required to report claims of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or designee (located in the Office of Institutional Equity). Responsible employees are not confidential resources. For a complete list of resources and more information about the policy see


In addition, students are encouraged to access the Code of Conduct, as well as resources and general academic policies on such issues as diversity, religious observance, and student disabilities:

Office of Student Conduct

Diversity and Inclusion

Registrar’s Office

Religious Observances Policy

Disability Services for Students


Students who take this class must be prepared to submit electronic copies of their assignments. The university expects that all students will be evaluated and graded on their own work. If you use language, data or ideas from other sources, published or unpublished, you must take care to acknowledge and properly cite those sources. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism. To deter plagiarism, encourage responsible student behavior, improve student learning and ensure greater accountability, assignments for this class will be run through plagiarism detection software. If the results of the report may be used to charge you with plagiarism, you will be notified of the result of the report, and you will be given the opportunity to respond per the regular institutional process and procedures that govern student academic conduct. If you are found to be responsible for plagiarism in the academic integrity review process, you will receive an E for the course.


Grading Scale


100-93% = A

92-88% = BA

87-83% = B

82-78% = CB

77-73% = C

72-68% = DC

67-60% = D

below 60% = E

Semester Points

1000-930 = A

929-880 = BA

879-830 = B

829-780 = CB

779-730 = C

729-680 = DC

679-600 = D

below 600 = E