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Political Science (POSC)

Chair: T. Byrnes

The department’s program is designed to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of politics in the broadest sense, both domestically and internationally, and to introduce them to the skills needed for research and analysis. The curriculum includes courses in the principal fields of the discipline, including American and comparative government and politics of European, Asian, South American, Middle Eastern, and African nations; international relations; and normative political theory. Through coursework and independent study projects, students confront some of the enduring questions of politics while studying political institutions, processes, behavior, and theory. Students who major in political science are likely to be well prepared for future careers or graduate study in such fields as law, public service, international affairs, business management, teaching, journalism, and many others.

The 100-level courses are designed for students likely to major in other fields of study as well as those still considering a major or minor in political science. The 200-level courses are intended to serve as gateway courses to the major as well as to particular subfields. Both the 100- and 200-level courses, then, are general introductions providing a broad foundation in the discipline and are particularly suitable for first– and second–year students. The 300- and 400-level courses are, in most instances, somewhat more demanding and less general than lower-level courses and allow students to explore a specific topic in greater depth. These courses are generally directed, but not limited, to the needs of juniors and seniors.

In addition, the Department of Political Science sponsors study groups to Washington, DC and Geneva, Switzerland. Colgate’s Washington study group, the oldest such program in the nation, offers students the opportunity to live, work, and take courses in the nation’s capital. Students with interests in American politics and government, constitutional law, or public policy are encouraged to apply. Before doing so, you should take one of the following courses: POSC 150 (also offered as an FSEM), POSC 210, or POSC 211.

The Geneva (Switzerland) study group allows students to study international organizations and the rise of global governance, along with Western European politics and cultures. Internships are a part of the experience and include placements in international organizations, non-governmental organizations, or private concerns with interests in international relations or comparative politics. At least one college-level French course is a prerequisite for the study group. Study group directors may specify other prerequisites, but it is strongly recommended that students take POSC 151, POSC 152, POSC 232 (also offered as FSEM 198), or POSC 260, and at least one other political science or history course in the politics, culture, history, international relations, or economies of Europe.

Questions about political science programs may be directed to the department administrative assistant, Cindy Terrier, or Tim Byrnes, Professor of Political Science, at 315-228-7521; students should also closely consult the University Catalogue and the department’s web page.


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FSEM 191, America as a Democracy
Faculty Profile for Professor Luttig

This course provides an introduction to American politics. We will analyze various facets of American government, from the founding era and the Constitution to the major political institutions and contemporary public opinion. The emphasis in the course is to critically evaluate our system of government by assessing its strengths and weaknesses, placing our political system in broader comparative context, and by tracing the evolution of our government throughout America’s history. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for POSC 150 and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Professor Luttig’s research interests are in American politics, with a particular emphasis on public opinion and political psychology. He has published research on various issues in American politics, including: the consequences of economic inequality on Americans’ attitudes towards redistribution, the role of race and racial attitudes in recent campaigns and elections, and the psychological nature and origins of political polarization, among others. His current research agenda is twofold: first, writing a book about the political psychology of polarization and partisan antagonism in American politics; second, working on a series of articles about the political attitudes of Millennials, including a look at the ways in which Millennials think about race and how racial attitudes affect Millennials’ political preferences.

FSEM 198, Fundamentals-Int'l Relations
Faculty Profile for Professor Lupton

What are the causes of war and the conditions for peace in international politics? This course answers this question by providing students with an introduction to critical and enduring approaches to understanding international relations. Students examine theories about what states want in the international system, how states achieve these aims, and how states handle contemporary problems facing the world today. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, the causes of war, alliance politics, globalization, nuclear weapons, humanitarian intervention, terrorism, and cybersecurity. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for POSC 232 and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Professor Lupton's research examines the influence of world leaders on international conflict and security. Her specialties include elite decision-making, nuclear deterrence, U.S. foreign policy, political psychology, and civil-military relations. Her research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals, and her media appearances include CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

POSC 150, America as a Democracy
While most Americans take it for granted that our political system is a democracy and that it serves as an ideal by which other systems might be measured, the United States is only one of many stable democratic polities in existence today. This course identifies various characteristics of democratic systems that set them apart from others, and compares the operation of our presidential system with the parliamentary model adopted by many industrialized democracies. (AM)

POSC 151, Politics and Moral Vision
This introduction to political theory addresses the ways in which personal morality and ideas of human flourishing determine one's perceptions and responses to political institutions that shape the life and culture of one's nation. Using a wide variety of texts, the moral underpinnings of different political systems are discussed in terms of fundamental normative concepts such as right, duty, virtue, liberty, and equality. Other essential terms, basic to building a foundational political vocabulary, such as liberalism, conservatism, individualism, communalism, and modernity are also explored. This introduction to normative political theory gives special emphasis to the genesis and development of liberal democracy and the tensions between its component parts, particularly as they relate to visions of a well-lived, moral life. This course is designed to enrich one's perceptions of the evening news and the political discourse of our times. (TH)

POSC 153, Intro to Comparative Politics
Nearly 200 independent states coexist in the world today. Although they are all unique, political scientists study them in systematic ways, comparing them to discover fundamental political patterns that can help produce broadly applicable generalizations across different cultures and geographies. Themes such as democratic or authoritarian regime type, models of economic development, state institutions, civil society, and issues of national and ethnic identity all form important realms of inquiry for researchers engaged in the practice of comparative politics. This course introduces students to the principle themes and basic theories of comparative politics using examples from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, including both authoritarian and unstable democratic countries. (CO)

POSC 210, Congress
Analyzes the legislative process with a special emphasis on the relationship between Congress and the presidency. Students examine the historical development and structural attributes of Congress that determine its role in the executive-legislative relationship. Since the decision-making process varies enormously by issue area, students focus on several distinct policy areas. Course materials include classics of congressional scholarship as well as results from some of the latest research in the field. (AM)

POSC 211, Presidency & Exec Leadership
An examination of the complex and controversial role the presidency plays in the American political system. The course begins with the founders and with the creation of the presidency at the Constitutional Convention. This is followed by an examination of the powers vested in the office and the ways in which they check and are checked by Congress. Discussion then turns to what has come to be called the "managerial presidency." Descriptive and analytical treatment of the ways in which the country elects presidents is a major topic. At many points the American presidency is compared to executive power in other democracies. (AM)

POSC 216, Comparative Pol: Latin America
Today Latin America is one of the most democratic regions of the developing world, although it faces problems of inequality, gridlock, and economic growth. Latin America's 20th-century experiences of coups, revolutions, and instability also present important lessons for comparative politics. This course introduces students to the countries of Latin America and the important patterns of similarity and difference that can help them understand political development and elucidate comparative trends. Regime type is one prism through which students examine the region's countries, including democracy, semi-democracy, and various authoritarian regimes, especially bureaucratic authoritarianism. Another important topic is the United States' relationship with the region's polities, on issues like the Cold War, drug wars, and economic policies. In addition to big countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela, the course also focuses on countries of particular student interest. (CO)

POSC 232, Fundmtls Int'l Relations
An introduction to the basic approaches to international relations, such as realism, idealism, and the interdependence school. Students also consider fundamental problems of national security, the uses of power, the causes of war, the nature of international institutions, the relationships among security, deterrence, conflict escalation, and nuclear proliferation. (IR)

POSC 260, Foundations of Polit Thought
This introduction to political thought explores the questions: What is a just society? What is the best way of life? The course examines major alternatives from Plato to Nietzsche, as well as recent critics and defenders of American liberal democracy. (TH)