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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2009

SOC 308 • Capital Punishment in America

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
45490 MWF
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
NOA 1.102

Course Description

Despite the abolition of the death penalty among nearly every other industrialized Western nation in the world, the United States still uses execution as a criminal punishment. This course examines historical, legal, and social perspectives on the death penalty in the United States. We will pay particular attention to the shifting nature of contemporary death penalty debates and the various rationales offered to support its continued use in America.

At the end of this course, you will have what academics call an "informed opinion" on the death penalty. Your evaluation will not rest upon the specific positions you take, but on your ability to use the course material to carefully construct an argument and effectively address positions other than your own. The exams will reflect your grasp of the knowledge as you progress through the course.

Grading Policy

Exams: There will be three exams that will consist of multiple-choice and true-false questions that will evaluate your knowledge of material that comes from lectures, assigned readings, discussions, guest lectures, films, and in-class assignments. Each exam will contribute 100 points toward your final grade. Make-up exams will only be permitted with documentation for an excused absence, and an alternative test format may be given at the instructor's discretion. Each exam will be worth 100 points toward your final grade.

Participation: Each student is expected to contribute in a meaningful way to both in-class and Blackboard discussion boards with their group members. Also, in-class assignments and quizzes will periodically be announced and completed in class to reward students who come to class prepared every day. While there is no formal attendance policy, missing these will impact your participation grade for the course. Attendance will be taken every day and no make-ups will be permitted for in-class assignments. In-class assignments, quizzes andyour discussion participation in-class and on Blackboard will make up your participation grade.

Group Action Project: You will be required to work in a group to complete an "action project" related to the death penalty in America. After completing this project, you will be required to deliver a professional PowerPoint presentation to the class toward the end of the semester documenting the group's work related to the topic chosen. In addition, each group will provide a group paper describing the details of the group's work (no more than five double-spaced pages). To help ensure an equal distribution of labor, group members will evaluate each other's contributions to the group. Additional details on this project will be provided later in the semester on Blackboard under "Assignment." The group project will count toward 100 points of your final grade. Grade Evaluation and Distribution
Exam 1 (50 questions x 2 points) 100 A = 405 - 450
Exam 2 (50 questions x 2 points) 100 B = 360 - 404
Exam 3 (50 questions x 2 points) 100 C = 315 - 351
Group Project 100 D = 270 - 306
Participation 50 F = 269 and below
Total Points 450
Credit/No Credit students need 315 points to pass.


There is no formal text for the course. All required readings will be posted on Blackboard under "Course Documents." All reading should be completed prior to class.


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