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Unit of study_

USSC6902: US Politics: Presidency and Congress

Semester 2, 2020 [Normal evening] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit will examine US domestic politics through analysing the federal structure and separation of powers within the American political system. This understanding will provide an appreciation of the porous nature of US political institutions, offering social actors a variety of venues and opportunities to influence political decision-making. It will examine the factors that make some arenas more open than others and strategies that groups and political actors take to secure or prise open those avenues for change.

Unit details and rules

Unit code USSC6902
Academic unit United States Studies Centre
Credit points 6
Prohibitions
? 
None
Prerequisites
? 
None
Corequisites
? 
None
Assumed knowledge
? 

None

Available to study abroad and exchange students

Yes

Teaching staff

Coordinator Gorana Grgic, gorana.grgic@sydney.edu.au
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment hurdle task Major paper
Written assessment
45% Formal exam period 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Participation Participation
Participation
15% Ongoing n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment hurdle task Blog post
Online blog
20% Week 09 500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Presentation hurdle task group assignment Presentation and group paper
Presentation and written assessment
20% Week 12 20 minutes and notes (~3000 words)
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range

Description

High distinction

85 - 100

Work of exceptional standard. Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading, pointed and critical analysis of material, innovative interpretation of evidence, makes an insightful contribution to debate, engages with values, assumptions and contested meanings contained within original evidence, develops abstract or theoretical arguments on the strength of detailed research and interpretation. Properly documented; writing characterised by creativity, style, and precision.

Distinction

75 - 84

Work of a superior standard. Written work demonstrates initiative in research and reading, complex understanding and original analysis of subject matter and its context, both empirical and theoretical; makes good attempt to ‘get behind’ the evidence and engage with its underlying assumptions, takes a critical, interrogative stance in relation to argument and interpretation, shows critical understanding of the principles and values underlying the unit. Properly documented; writing characterised by style, clarity, and some creativity.

Credit

65 - 74

65-69% (Low Credit) Competent work, though further development needed. Written work contains evidence of comprehensive reading, offers synthesis and critical evaluation of material on its own terms, takes a position in relation to various interpretations. In addition, it shows some extra spark of insight or analysis. Demonstrates understanding of broad historical significance, good selection of evidence, coherent and sustainable argument, some evidence of independent thought.

70-74% (High Credit) Highly competent work. Evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. Engages critically and creatively with the question, and attempts an analytical evaluation of material. Makes a good attempt to critique various interpretations, and offers a pointed and thoughtful contribution to an existing debate. Some evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically, and to conceptualise and problematise issues. Well written and documented.

Pass

50 - 64

50-54% (Low Pass) Work of an acceptable standard. Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject matter, offers descriptive summary of material relevant to the question, but may have a tendency to paraphrase; makes a reasonable attempt to organise material logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation. There may be gaps in any or all of these areas.

55-59% (Medium Pass) Work of a satisfactory standard. Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading and research, and demonstrates a reasonable understanding of subject matter. Offers a synthesis of relevant material and shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, has a logical and comprehensible structure and acceptable documentation, and attempts to mount an argument, though there may be weaknesses in particular areas.

60-64% (High Pass) Work has considerable merit. Written work contains evidence of a broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject matter and some sense of its broader significance, offers synthesis and some evaluation of material, demonstrates an effort to go beyond the essential reading, contains clear focus on the principal issues, understanding of relevant arguments and diverse interpretations, and a coherent argument grounded in relevant evidence, though there may be some weaknesses of clarity or structure. Articulate, properly documented.

Fail

0 - 49

Work not of an acceptable standard. Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: unacceptable levels of paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; presentation, grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; submitted very late without extension. The student’s performance fails to satisfy the specified learning requirements.

For more information see sydney.edu.au/students/guide-to-grades.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

The Assessment Procedures 2011 provide that any written work submitted after 11:59pm on the due date will be penalised by 5% of the maximum awardable mark for each calendar day after the due date. If the assessment is submitted more than ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded. However, a unit of study may prohibit late submission or waive late penalties only if expressly stated below.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction: Culture and Structure of US Politics Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 02 The Enduring Impact of the Constitution Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 Vertical Devolution of Power: Federalism Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Separation of Powers and Interbranch Relations Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 05 Studying the Presidency I: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 06 Studying the Presidency II: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Political Polarisation I: American Liberalism Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 08 Political Polarisation II: American Conservatism Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 09 Parties, Elections, and the Media Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 10 Public Policy I: Economic Inequality and Social Welfare Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 11 Public Policy II: Race Relations and Law Enforcement Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 12 Concluding Presentations: Obama’s Legacy and the Lessons of 2016 Elections Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold. If a unit of study has a participation mark, your attendance may influence this mark.
  • Lecture recordings: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on Canvas. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Minimum requirements for the successful completion of this unit:

  • Completion of assigned readings;
  • Regular attendance and demonstrated engagement with the subject matter during the weekly seminars;
  • All assessment items must be completed and submitted in order to pass the unit.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library eReserve, available on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. to provide students with a strong understanding of the structure and culture of American politics
  • LO2. to gain an understanding of the principal actors who have shaped American politics in the modern era
  • LO3. to develop a detailed knowledge of how American polity is organised and what can be comparatively learned from American approaches
  • LO4. to demonstrate an ability to think analytically through provision of advanced theoretical frameworks
  • LO5. to apply advanced oral and written communication skills that conform to the professional standard in the field
  • LO6. to work to a deadline and produce research outputs different from the standard academic assignments

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
GQ1 GQ2 GQ3 GQ4 GQ5 GQ6 GQ7 GQ8 GQ9

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The unit coordinator (Dr Gorana Grgic) has been involved in teaching and coordinating this unit since 2014. The feedback obtained from the previous cohorts has been used to refine and improve all of the facets of this unit from structure and content to assessment. Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss particular aspects of unit delivery and/or clarify what these changes entailed.

More information can be found on Canvas.

Disclaimer

The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.