Professor — Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Vice Provost, Professor
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 512-232-3312
- Office: MAI 201
- Campus Mail Code: G1000
Dr. Gretchen Ritter is professor of Government, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Faculty Governance, and the director of the Course Transformation Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Since joining the Provost’s Office in June 2009, Dr. Ritter has launched the Course Transformation Program (to redesign the university’s large, lower division courses), overseen the restructuring of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and created the Council of Academic Support Programs. She is also the former director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and former Co-Chair of the Gender Equity Task Force at UT Austin. Ritter received her BS in Government from Cornell University (Distinction in All Subjects) and her PhD in Political Science from MIT. She has published three books as well as numerous articles and essays. Her research focuses on women’s political activism, democratic movements, constitutional law and history, and work-family policy. Her most recent volume is Democratization in America: A Comparative and Historical Perspective, edited by Desmond King, Robert Lieberman, Gretchen Ritter and Laurence Whitehead, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). She is the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including a National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship, the Radcliffe Research Partnership Award, and a Liberal Arts Fellowship at Harvard Law School. She has taught at UT Austin, MIT, Princeton, and Harvard.
GOV 357M • Const Polit, Law, & Citznshp
TTH 930am-1100am WEL 2.256
The Constitution of the United States begins with the phrase “We, the People.” It is a phrase that simultaneously invokes and creates a political community. The Constitution contains both an institutional design for the government, and a political design for the community being governed. Who are “the People” for whom the Constitution was written? This relationship between the government and the people is present throughout the Constitution, but is particularly apparent in the Preamble, the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, and the other suffrage amendments. This course will seek to uncover the nature of the American constitutional order by examining some of the historical debates over who belongs to “We, the People.” We will focus on key moments in the development of the American constitutional order, and the debates over citizenship and civic membership that have accompanied those moments, particularly for groups that were originally excluded from that order, such as African-Americans, Latinos, women, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and so on. Materials for the class will include judicial opinions, and legal commentaries that consider the ways that debates over citizenship illuminate our political values and who we are as a nation.
COURSE LEARNING OBJECTIVES
The main learning goal for this course is for students to develop their critical thinking skills so that they can assess and make intelligent judgments about contemporary debates on constitutional issues. In terms of approach, this class relies on a student-centered model of learning. As the professor, my role is to serve as your guide on the journey to learning and to help you acquire the tools you need to make that journey productive. I am not here to impart my wisdom about these issues. Rather, I am here to help you acquire the knowledge and develop the skills you need to be independent learners in this area. During class, I will be asking critical questions designed to engage students in mastering the material, grasping key concepts, and making judgments about the relevance of what we learn in this course for life beyond the classrooms. Students will also be asked to engage with your peers – to articulate and defend your own analysis and judgments, and to understand and assess the judgments of others.
More specifically, by the end of the course students should have a good grasp of core constitutional doctrines as they relate to debates over democracy and inclusion such as equal protection, substantive due process, and the general welfare. They should be able to identify key trends in constitutional development over time and to explain how those trends have impacted constitutional politics and debates over citizenship. Students will also learn how to intelligently read and analyze Supreme Court cases. By the end of the course, students reading a case should be able to identify relevant facts and key issues, understand the legal analysis, thoughtfully discuss the arguments being made by each side, and explain the holding that was reached. Finally, students will learn about the most significant Supreme Court cases that address citizenship and rights issues, and they should be able to explain to their peers what makes these cases significant.
More broadly, over the course of the semester, students are expected to understand competing views about what are our nation’s core constitutional values and how these have changed over time; how our constitutional framework has shaped debates about democratic inclusion for various groups (e.g., immigrants, racial and religious minorities, women, and gays and lesbians); and what role various political actors (social movements, legislators, presidents, etc.) can and should play in shaping constitutional politics today. My hope is that by the end of the course each student will feel equipped to participate as citizens in contemporary constitutional debates, and will be able to thoughtfully articulate and defend their own views on constitutional issues that arise in years to come.
REQUIREMENTS & RESPONSIBILITIES (Please read carefully)
Grading will be based upon attendance, participation, two in-class exams, and a take-home final. Attendance is worth 10% of the grade. Correct participation in response to in-class questions is worth 10% of the grade. Both your attendance and participation scores will be based on your i-clicker use during class. If you respond to any question, you will be given credit for having attended the class. If you respond to at least 75% of the questions correctly, you will be given credit for participation for the class. Every student is automatically excused for missing two class sessions, so you will receive perfect attendance and participation scores if you answer 75% of the questions correctly in all but two classes.
Students are all expected to purchase an i-clicker and bring it to every class. Please check your batteries before you come to class. You will also need to register your i-clicker for this class on Blackboard in order to receive credit for attendance and participation.
The in-class exams are worth 30% of the grade each, and the final is worth 30% of the grade. In addition, students are expected to regularly attend class and participate. If you have a technical problem with your i-clicker, please consult with the ITS help desk in FAC.
For the two in-class exams, you will be asked to answer eight short answer or matching questions and write one essay. For the final take home assignment, you will be given two comprehensive essay questions the last week of class and asked to bring back two 4 -5 page essays (1200 - 1500 words each). More information on each of these assignments is provided at the end of the syllabus.
Grading Scale: Students who receive an overall numerical grade of 94 – 100 will be given a letter grade of “A”; those who receive an overall grade of 90 – 93.9 will receive an those who receive letter grade of “A-“ ; those who receive an overall grade of 87-89.9 will receive an those who receive letter grade of “B+”; those who receive an overall grade of 84 – 86.9 will receive a “B”; those who receive those who receive an overall grade of 80 – 83.9 will receive a letter grade of “B-“; those who receive an overall grade of 77 – 79.9 will receive a “C+”; those who receive an overall grade of 74 – 76.9 will receive a “C”; those who receive an overall grade of 70 – 73.9 will receive a “C“; those who receive an overall grade of 67 – 69.9 will be given a “D+”; those who receive an overall grade of 64 – 66.9 will be given a “D”; those who receive an overall grade of 60 – 63.9 will be given a “D-“; and anything below a 60 will be given a letter grade of “F”. Students who take the class pass/fail must receive an overall grade of at least 65 in order to pass. Grades of 64.9 and below will receive a fail.
There will be no grading curve in the class, so if all of the students earn “A”s, then that is what they will receive. Students concerned about their grades should come and see the professor during the semester, so that I may advise you on strategies for improving your grade. (If you wait until the end of the course to raise these concerns, then it is generally too late to do anything to help you.)
Students are responsible for anything that occurs in class, including, for instance, announcements that are made, assignments that are given out, and schedule changes that occur. We will be using Blackboard for this course. A discussion board will be set up there, to encourage further dialogue and exploration of the material covered in the course. I will periodically post questions, offer clarifications, and make comments on the discussion. I will also send emails and post announcements this way. You should be sure that you have a correct & functioning email address listed with the registrar so that you will receive course emails. Finally, as a courtesy to the students, I will try to post the lecture outlines for the class on the web, through Blackboard. But since it is sometimes technically difficult to post or download lectures, and since I may deviate from the lectures in class, please do not rely on these materials.
Regarding the in-class exams, any student who misses an exam for any reason without prior approval of the professor, will not receive credit for the exam (unless you were unconscious or stranded on a desert island). If you are very sick and cannot attend, you must get the professor’s approval (before the exam) to take a make-up exam. Make-ups will be approved only in cases of severe illness (colds, hangovers, and sleep deprivation do not qualify) or a death in the immediate family (great uncles and former in-laws do not qualify). You will need to provide verification of the cause of your absence if you are approved for a make-up. One comprehensive make-up exam will be given near the end of the course for students who miss an in-class exam and are approved to take a make-up.
Finally, this is designed as a challenging (and, I hope, rewarding) course, and it is expected that the students who take the course understand that and are motivated to meet that challenge. My commitment to those who do is that by the end of this course you will emerge as more informed and thoughtful citizens and observers of American constitutional politics.
READING and COURSE MATERIALS
The following required materials are available for purchase at the Co-op and other bookstores on the drag:
Richard Randall, American Constitutional Development: The Rights of Persons, vol. II.
(Referred to in the reading assignments as ACD)
i-Clickers (hand held consoles for classroom participation)
There will also be course materials and readings posted on Blackboard that students may download on their own.