2015-2016 Public Policy Courses
First-Year Studies: From Schools to Prisons: Inequality and Social Policy in the United States
Inequality and social policy go hand in hand in the United States. From the schools to the criminal justice system, policies structure our lives by either contributing to or helping to dismantle inequality. This course introduces students to policymaking through the lens of different issue areas in the United States. Students will examine major policy areas—including immigration, criminal justice, health, and education—along three axes. First, we will explore these areas socially and historically to see how debates and policies have evolved. We will also draw from the social science literature to examine the strengths and weaknesses and the intended and unintended consequences of these policies. Second, we will explore the complicated system of institutions and actors that make public policy decisions in each of these areas and across federal, state, and local levels. Finally, we will explore the role of different actors in attempting to shape policy. We will analyze the efforts of organized interests, of experts, and of local communities in their efforts to influence and implement policy. Students will leave the class with an understanding of major policy issues, policymaking, and how to effect policy change. This foundational information will feed into broader discussion about inequality in the United States.
Constructing Citizenship, Dismantling Hierarchies: The Immigrant and Racial Struggle for Political Equality
In the past few years, we have witnessed the undocumented, African Americans, and Latinos taking to the streets in protest, engaging in acts of civil disobedience, calling and writing letters to policy makers, and participating in a variety of other political demonstrations. Meanwhile, organizations—newly created and long standing, political and nonpolitical—are joining in by organizing political actions and lobbying on behalf of marginalized groups. Still, the impetus for these demonstrations, the mixed and sometimes nativist public reactions toward marchers, and the continued passage and implementation of punitive enforcement policies are also a reminder of the political marginalization of immigrant, racial, and ethnic groups in the United States. This course examines this heightened activism by situating it within historical political and social contests over citizenship in the United States. One set of questions explores political voice through political participation, mobilization, and organizational advocacy. How are immigrant and racial groups mobilized to participate in politics? In what ways do marginalized groups express their political voices? A second set of questions explores theoretical and methodological concerns in examining immigrant and racial integration in the political sphere. What are the barriers that immigrants face in acting politically, articulating their policy preferences, and having a “legitimate” voice in politics? In what ways are immigrant and racial groups’ political interests being represented? A final set of questions will consider the ramifications of inequalities in citizenship for democratic governance. The first part of the course will provide a historical overview of citizenship and its legal and social constructions. The second part of the course will draw from immigrant adaptation, minority political incorporation, and social movements to examine the political incorporation of immigrant and racial groups in the United States. The final part of the course will be devoted to an overview of the dynamics of immigrant integration in the political sphere; we will examine political participation and mobilization through the lens of the individual, organizations, and the state.