POL 375 - Politics of Environmental Issues, Spring 2020

General Information

Professor Chad Rector
Wednesdays, 10:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Ballston 6094

Syllabus coming soon

This course meets Marymount's "Advanced Social Science" requirement. 

Course Assignments and Grades

Course grades will be based on a weighted average of the following:
  • Two exams. 20% each. (40% total.) Each exam will contain two parts. The first part is a simulation exercise in which students apply basic concepts from the course to a collective problem; this will take about 1 hour. The second part is a traditional bluebook exam with four short essay questions. More details about both parts will be posted here before the exams. 
  • Discussion leader. 5%. Each day, about two students will be assigned to summarize the assigned readings and pose questions for class discussion. 
  • Two article summaries and presentations. 15% each. (30% total). Each student will be assigned to provide a short written summary of a published social science article, edit a Wikipedia entry to include a reference to that article, and present a summary of the article to the class. These will be spread throughout the semester, between February 5 and April 1. 
  • Group projects. 25%. Students will work in assigned groups of 3 to 5 members to address, in a creative but realistic way, a political coordination problem. Graded output includes a group paper and presentation. Details about this assignment will be posted after spring break.
Extra credit:
  • Class participation. Students may earn up to 5% for sustained, constructive contributions to class discussions. 
  • DC event. 5% for a first event and 3% for a second. Attend an informative, professional lecture, seminar, or hearing in the DC area on the subject of public affairs and write a summary of your experience. Specific instructions about attending and reporting on events are here. Summaries must be well-written to receive credit; I will send back poorly-written ones for revisions before they are accepted. You will receive 5 extra credit points for one event, and 3 points for a second. These must be submitted before the last meeting of the semester. Summaries are kept private by default, but we may post selected summaries on the Marymount world politics blog by mutual agreement.
Any student who misses 4 class sessions will lose a full letter grade, 5 class sessions 2 full letter grades, 6 class sessions 3, 7 class sessions or more 4. 

Assignments will be marked down for being late. Students who miss an exam will have one chance to take a makeup and will be marked down unless they have a valid medical or university business excuse. Students will not be penalized for missing a class assignment for a recognized religious holiday. Exams will be written in class without books, notes, computers, phones, audio devices, or other aids.

I do not, in general, grant extensions on major assignments. If you think you have gotten an extension from me but you do not have something in writing from me that specifically says that, then you probably haven’t. Like, if you tell me in person that your paper is going to be late, and I say “okay” or I give you advice on how to complete it, that isn’t me giving you an extension – that’s me saying that I understand that your paper is going to be late. It is only an “extension” (a promise from me that you may turn in a paper late without being penalized) if I have said so, explicitly, in an email message. It is okay to ask me to clarify this.

There is no such thing as an "excused" absence. If you tell me that you are going to miss a class and I say "okay" or something polite like that, the absence will still count. If you are absent three times or fewer there is no reason to give me an excuse, or a note, or anything like that. 

I may, at my discretion, check any written assignments for plagiarism at any time during or after the semester, using electronic or other means. Students found violating the Marymount principles of Academic Integrity will fail the course and be formally charged through the University’s Academic Integrity process. I am totally serious about this, and have failed students in prior semester for cheating. By enrolling in the course you acknowledge that you have reviewed the University’s standards of academic integrity.
Make an appointment with Professor Rector

Course Schedule and Readings

There are three assigned books for the course:


January 15
Climate change and basic concepts in governance

January 22
Thinking about climate
Read Nordhaus, Chapters 1-12

January 29
Policies to address climate change
Read Nordhaus, Chapters 13-21

Part 1: American parties and climate

February 5
Environmentalism as an issue
Read Karol, Chapters 1-4

February 12
Party coalitions
Read Karol, Chapters 5-9

February 19
Exam 1
Covers Introduction and Part 1, class sessions and readings

Part 2: International coordination

February 26 - meet in Ballston 4028
Read Peinhardt and Sandler, Chapters 1-3

March 4
Read Peinhardt and Sandler, Chapters 5 and 12

March 18
Read (TBA)

Part 3: State / Society relations

March 25
Opportunity structures and civic action
Read (TBA)

April 1
Transnational coordination
Read (TBA)

April 8
Exam 2
Covers Introduction and Parts 1, 2, and 3, class sessions and readings

Part 4: Group projects

April 15

April 29
Group Presentations 

May 6 (9:00 am to 11:30 am)
Group Presentations