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PS 3350 Syllabus

Course Syllabus

PS 3350 - Interest Groups and Social Groups

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

This course examines the role of interest groups in American politics and the policy making process, including the role of lobbyists, money, and politics. The course also covers case studies of several specific interest groups. 

Course Outcomes:

In this course the student will learn what interest groups are, how interest groups operate in the American political system, how the complex world of campaign finance laws regulate elections and interest groups, how campaign finance loopholes are used by interest groups to promote their goals, and how interest groups influence policymakers and public policy in Congress, judicial nominations and confirmations, and in the regulatory process. The student will also learn how social movements arise, operate, motivate people to protest, and attempt to influence politics and policy. The student will study some of the major theories that attempt to explain social movement behavior. 

Prerequisites & Co-requisites:

None, but students should be familiar with basic American government structures and functions (i.e., what are the three branches of government)? If a student does not have this basic understanding, an Introduction to American Government course would be helpful before taking this class.

Course Topics:

There are five topics in this class. Each topic must be completed prior to moving onto the next.

  1. Interest groups in American politics - After completing this topic the student will understand:
    1. What interest groups are and how they differ from social movements.
    2. How many interest groups there are.
    3. What types of interest groups there are.
    4. How interest groups operate in the American Congress.
    5. How interest groups affect policy making (in general, more details in later topic)
    6. How interest groups affect elections (in general, more details in later topic) 
  2. The regulation of campaign finance -- After completing this topic the student will understand:
    1. How much money is involved in financing American campaigns.
    2. Where the money in American campaigns comes from.
    3. How interest groups are involved in collecting and redistributing this money.
    4. How this money influences elections.
    5. The laws of the United States regarding campaign finance.
    6. The recent changes and debates over campaign finance laws.
    7. The implications of some changes for the conduct of elections.
  3. Interest groups and policymaking -- After completing this topic the student will understand:
    1. How interest groups target specific member of Congress.
    2. How interest groups target specific Committees in Congress.
    3. How interest groups gain access to members and Committees in Congress.
    4. How interest groups attempt to influence policy making with grassroots methods.
    5. How interest groups attempt to influence policy making with direct methods (lobbying).
    6. How interest groups attempt to influence judicial nominations and confirmations.
    7. How interest groups attempts to influence the federal bureaucracy and regulatory agencies.
  4. The mobilization of discontent -- After completing this topic the student will understand:
    1. How interest groups may become radicalized.
    2. How radicalized groups may become social movements.
    3. How social movements unite their followers.
    4. How social movements mobilize their followers to protest.
    5. Why people protest.
    6. What benefits people get from joining social movements and protesting.
    7. The impact of protests on policymaking.
  5. Theories of social change -- After completing this topic the student will understand: 
    1. What some of the major theories are that attempt to explain social movements.
    2. Some theorists use Marxist analysis to attempt to explain social change and social movements.
    3. Some theorists use Pluralist theory to attempt to explain social change and social movements.
    4. Some theorists use psychological theory to attempt to explain social change and social movements.
    5. There are many ways of looking at protests and attempts at social change. 
Specific Course Requirements:

Students must do:

  1. All assignments in each unit. Each unit consists of: A reading component. Students must first read the assigned reading in each unit (located in Content area). A writing component. Students must write responses to the assignment in that unit. A discussion component. Students must also comment on the discussions for that unit. More discussions are better.
  2. The two research papers (see "About This Course" section under Content for detailed information on papers)
  3. The midterm exam.
  4. The final exam. Students may not skip any of these requirements and pass the course. 

Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:

There are no supplementary materials needed, other than a computer with internet connection and access to a library. 

Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

There are two tests in this course: an open book, untimed midterm exam and an open book, untimed final exam. You may take these exams anywhere in the world that there is internet connectivity. 

Grading Procedures:

1. Each Module has a written Assignment. That is worth 7% of your course grade. Total 35% for all five Module Assignments. All Assignments together make up 350 of 1000 points in the course.

a. Written assignment for Module 1 - 7% or 70 points
b. Written assignment for Module 2 - 7% or 70 points
c. Written assignment for Module 3 - 7% or 70 points
d. Written assignment for Module 4 - 7% or 70 points
e. Written assignment for Module 5 - 7% or 70 points

2. There are two required research papers in this course.

a. Interest Groups Paper 15% or 150 points
b. Social Movements Paper 15% or 150 points

3. Discussions 10% or 100 points

a. Discussions are important part of this class and all students are expected to contribute regularly to the discussions for each unit. Discussions are worth 10% of your course grade, and grades are based on quality as well as quantity of posts. One three or four line post per topic will constitute the bare minimum for a middle "C" grade, more and longer posts will get higher grades. An "A" in discussions would mean at least three posts per topic each consisting of at least six lines of insightful commentary. Posts of a "me too" nature do not count. Keep up with the discussions--do them daily. Posts added in the last two days the discussions are open will be discounted. Comment early and often.

4. Midterm Exam 10% or 100 points

5. Final Exam 15% or 150 points

Units must be completed in order and all five written Assignments, both research papers, participation in discussions, and both exams must be completed in order to pass this course. You may not skip one of these written parts and still pass the class. 

Grading Scale:
93-100A
80-92B
70-79C
60-69D Less than 60 is failing
Assignments and Projects:

Module 1: Read required readings posted online here in the D2L course (called Interest Groups in American Politics). Do Assignment 1 and upload it in the Dropbox. Add your comments to both of the Module 1 Discussions (Power of Interest Groups and Regulation of Interest Groups).

Module 2: Read required readings posted online here in the D2L course (called Regulation of Campaign Finance). Do Assignment 2 and upload it in the Dropbox. Add your comments to the Module 2 Discussion (Campaign Finance).

Module 3: Read required readings posted online here in the D2L course (called Role of Interest Groups in Policymaking). Do Assignment 3 and upload it in the Dropbox. Add your comments to both of the Module 3 Discussions (Lobbyists and Lobbying).

Do the paper on Interest Groups and upload it to the Dropbox. Take the Midterm Exam

Module 4: Read required readings posted online here in the D2L course (called Mobilization of Discontent). Do Assignment 4 and upload it in the Dropbox. Add your comments to the Module 4 Discussion (Types of Participation).

Module 5: Read required readings posted online here in the D2L course (called Theories of Social Change). Do Assignment 5 and upload it in the Dropbox. Add your comments to the Module 5 Discussion (Theories of Social Change).

Do the paper on Social Movements and upload it to the Dropbox.

Take the Final Exam 

Class Participation:

Discussions are important part of this class and all students are expected to contribute regularly to the discussions for each unit. Discussions are worth 10% of your course grade, and grades are based on quality as well as quantity of posts. One three or four line post per topic will constitute the bare minimum for a middle "C" grade, more and longer posts will get higher grades. An "A" in discussions would mean at least three posts per topic each consisting of at least six lines of insightful commentary. Posts of a "me too" nature do not count. Posts added in the last two days a Discussion topic is open will be discounted. Comment early and often. Students are expected to email the instructor as soon as possible if any problems or issues arise that may affect their performance in the course. 

Late Policy:

Watch the due dates. All work must be done on or before the specified due dates as posted here in the syllabus. No late work will be accepted. All papers and Assignments must be posted to the Dropbox while it is open for that project. Both exams must be taken during specified times. The best gift you can give yourself is the watch the due dates, and plan ahead 

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:

RULES OF THE TENNESSEE BOARD OF REGENTS STATE UNIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM OF TENNESSEE SYSTEMWIDE STUDENT RULES CHAPTER 0240-02-03 STUDENT CONDUCT AND DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS

Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications

Email:

  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members

Discussions:

  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.

Library

The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.

Disclaimer

The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.


Last Revised on April 28, 2017