PSCI 3510 - Syllabus

  PSCI 3510




Course Description

Terrorism is not new. But its extent today and its effect on human, national and international security is unprecedented. What exactly is terrorism and how can it be better understand beyond the stereotypes and caricatures common in today's political and media discourse? How can we combat terrorism without demonizing entire categories of people? This course will start by examining terrorism historically. We will analyze terrorism as committed by states and by opposition groups, and will investigate it as both a national and a transnational phenomenon. We will further examine the effectiveness of a variety of counter-terrorist strategies ranging from addressing root causes to military responses. We will consider both terrorism and counter-terrorism from a moral standpoint and consider their impact on democratic processes and institutions. Students will then employ what they've learned in an in-class simulation.

Learning Outcomes


  • You will gain the ability to define and differentiate types of terrorism.
  • You will understand various explanations for the causes, tactics and goals of terrorist activity.
  • You will become familiar with counter-terrorist strategies employed by the US, other countries and various international organizations.


  • You will gain skill in "border crossing," seeing things through someone else's eyes, understanding others' cultural "lenses."
  • You will strengthen your critical thinking skills, especially (but not exclusively) by remembering the following guidelines:

  • Complex problems have complex and multiple causes. Simplistic explanations lead to simplistic solutions that don't work.
  • Correlation is not causation. (It might suggest a causal relationship, but it's not a given.)
  • Evidence and inference guide our conclusions. Not ideology, not preconceptions and not emotion.
  • There is never only one side to a conflict. Rarely is one party always right.

Course learning outcomes intersect with these WMU and College of Arts and Sciences global learning outcomes:

  • Knowledge #2: Demonstrate knowledge of the varied forces that have shaped the world.
  • Skill #2: The ability to think critically and problem solve while relying upon globally relevant knowledge and a variety of cultural frames of reference.
  • Perspective #4: Concern for becoming a globally engaged citizen who will work toward a sustainable future.

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 "terrorism." Print them or read them on your device.

Requirements and Grading

Attendance, Participation and Quizzes: 30%

Simulation: 35%

Preparatory writing assignment #1: 12%

Preparatory writing assignment #2: 12%

Simulation: 11%

Mid-Term Exam: 15%

Final Exam: 20%

Attendance and Quizzes

A high priority in this class is placed on attendance and preparation. Attendance in class is something I take very seriously. One learns not by attendance when convenient and cramming for exams, but by regular engagement with the material, both written and verbal. I can't possibly test for everything, and I assume by virtue of being in class and being awake (another expectation!), you'll be learning far more than I can examine you on. Hence: the significant portion of your grade that is placed on attendance. I will occasionally have unannounced quizzes at the beginning of class that will cover the previous class session and readings assigned for the day the quiz is given.

Participation and Class Behavior

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

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 newspaper. Please take note of the electronics policy below.


Exams in this class will be in essay format, with perhaps 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. 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 will 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 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 are 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.

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.

Late Assignments

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).


I will communicate with you often. You are responsible for monitoring communications. To communicate with me, you should use email. Leaving a message on my office voice mail will likely result in a delayed response. I will do everything I can to answer your email message promptly. Please help me distinguish between important messages from you and annoying spam from pranksters and criminals by using your WMU address. Also, when you write to me, please put "PSCI 3510" in the subject line. I cannot guarantee that emails that do not follow these instructions will be answered promptly.

Submission of Papers and Assignments

All papers and assignments in the class will be submitted electronically to me. I will not accept hard copies under any circumstance. Papers must be either completed in Microsoft Word or be fully compatible with it. 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