Public Policy (POLA 3240)

Course Objectives and Course Goals:

This course covers the policy-making process for national domestic policy in the United States. Policies are the decisions made by a variety of political actors that set and implement a course for action on particular political problems. Thus, they are the meat of politics – without policies, politics have no real stakes. We examine the important concepts and theories about policy-making and study the policy process in its various stages. In the process, there are several case studies we examine as well as an in-depth analysis of policies related to campus crime, health care, and public education.

We will study the following questions:

  • Why do some problems reach the political agenda and others do not?
  • Who are the important actors in the policy process and what roles do they play?
  • What are the values at stake with policy debates?
  • What explains why certain solutions are offered and others are rejected?
  • How do we know if a policy has been successful?
  • Why do some policies succeed and others fail?

Learning Outcomes and Instruments of Assessment:

Upon completion of this course, students will have demonstrated substantive knowledge and analytical competence in the understanding of how policy is made in the United States. Students will demonstrate this knowledge through classroom participation and the exams. Students will also develop research skills and learn to write short policy memos and longer policy briefs. Finally, students will demonstrate critical thinking skills, learn to defend an argument and use evidence to analyze empirical political statements.

Required Materials:

Eugene Bardach, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving (CQ Press, 2012)

Paul Manna, Collision Course: Federal Education Policy Meets State and Local Realities (CQ Press, 2011)

John J. Sloan, III and Bonnie S. Fisher, The Dark Side of the Ivory Tower: Campus Crime as a Social Problem (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Please note that this book and the resulting coursework contain discussions about acts of violence including gun violence and sexual assault which may be triggering to survivors. If you need to step out of class at some points for this reason, please do so. I can help you find resources that will help. If you believe you cannot read this book or attend class at all on these days, you may not want to take this class.

Paul Starr, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle Over Health Care Reform (Yale University Press, 2011)

In addition, several readings are located on Blackboard (denoted BB in list of readings). Log on to and click on the course link for POLA 3240: Public Policy. The readings are under course documents.

Course Requirements: 

Regular Attendance, Active Class Participation & Quizzes: 15%
All students are expected to attend class, be on time, and be prepared to discuss the readings. Participation is a function not only of attendance, but also the quality of contributions. There will be pop quizzes on the reading throughout the semester. If you enter after a quiz has begun, you may not be allowed to take it and it will count as a zero. I will do my best to make class a positive experience and to make myself available outside of class for students with problems, questions, concerns or who simply want to talk about politics. Please note, however, that students who attend regularly and participate in class are entitled to the bulk of my time outside of class. I am willing to help any student who seeks it, but do not expect too much sympathy if you are not holding up your end of the bargain. If you are struggling, do not wait to contact me.

Exams: 20% each

There will be a midterm and a cumulative final exam. Final examinations are to be held at the times publicized in the Final Examination Schedule posted on the Registrar’s website. Any student who is absent from a final examination will be given permission to take a make-up examination only if an acceptable excuse is presented to an associate dean in Newcomb-Tulane College before the exam or within 24 hours after the exam. A student whose absence from a final examination is not excused is to be given an “F” in the course.

Policy Memo: 20%

See instructions after the course schedule.

Policy Brief: 25%

See instructions after the course schedule.

****NOTE ABOUT WRITTEN WORK: Students must turn in two copies of their papers. One should be uploaded to Blackboard through Safe Assignment. The other should be a hard copy. Assignments are due at the beginning of class. Once I have taken attendance and started class, assignments are considered late and will be docked 5 points (half letter grade). Papers turned in after class is over are docked one letter grade per day (not per class).

In written assignments, grammar and style count nearly as much as the content. There is a list of common grammatical/stylistic errors attached to the syllabus. For each of these errors on a student’s paper, the grade will be lowered by a half-letter. Thus, when a student makes five of these errors, his/her grade will start at 75. Proofread your work. Go to the Writing Center. Put the word count at the top of page 1. Number all pages. Staple your papers BEFORE turning them in.

Grading Scale:

94+=A, 90-93=A-, 88-89=B+, 83-87=B, 80-82=B-, 78-79=C+ 73-77=C, 70-72=C-, 60-69=D, 0-59=F

Note: No matter how nicely you ask or how close you may be to a higher grade, I will not “bump up” your grade. I round up anything above 0.5 (i.e. 89.5 = A-).

Special Circumstances:

If you have any kind of special circumstances, such as a disability, illness or handicap, or if you are involved with a university activity that requires you to miss class, let me know as soon as possible. This information is confidential. All students attending Tulane University with documented disabilities are eligible and encouraged to apply for services with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Please see me for information, or go to Students needing accommodations must provide me with a Course Accommodation Form and if applicable, an Exam Request Form (“blue sheet”) in order to schedule an exam to be taken at ODS. Accommodations involving exams must be requested at least four days before a test or seven days before a final exam. Any student receiving an exam-related accommodation should plan to take the exam at ODS.

If issues arise during the semester that are likely to affect your participation, attendance or performance, it is in your interest to let me know. You may consult with your academic advisor or Erica Woodley in Student Affairs if issues rise to a serious enough level that you need temporary accommodations.

Absence Policy:

Attendance is mandatory. I take attendance in every class, but I do not police my students. I only need to hear from you about excused absences; do not bother contacting me about unexcused absences. Regardless of the reason for your absence, it is the student’s responsibility to figure out what you missed. Excused absences include university-sponsored events (not including athletic practices – games only), deaths in the family, religious observance, and illnesses with appropriate documentation. They do not include family reunions, weddings, or graduations; illnesses without documentation; car problems, including traffic and parking; most police incidents – court dates, getting pulled over, etc.; computer problems – hard drive crashes, empty ink cartridges, paper jams, busy library printers; and, most other unfortunate but commonplace life events. Note the university academic calendar and the syllabus’s schedule of assignments. Any unexcused absence on an exam or quiz means you forfeit all points. There are no exceptions and do not bother to ask for one. If absences, tardiness, or under-preparation becomes a problem, your grade will suffer. In addition, any student with perfect attendance (no unexcused absences) will receive one point added onto their final grade.

For the sake of all that is good in this world, do not send this email: “Did I miss anything today in class?”

Academic Dishonesty:

Academic honesty is expected of all students at Tulane. Your responsibilities as a Tulane student include being familiar with the honor code and the plagiarism policy of the University (see Cases of cheating or plagiarism will be reported to the Honor Board, and may result in a failing grade for the class, academic probation, or expulsion. Ignorance is not a valid excuse.

Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to the following actions:

  1. presenting another’s work, ideas, expressions or research as if it were one’s own;
  2. failing to acknowledge or document a source even if the action is unintended (i.e., plagiarism);

Note: Plagiarism includes copying & pasting material from any source (Wikipedia, paper mill, other internet site, book, journal, newspaper, magazine, etc.) without proper attribution. Plagiarism also includes non-verbatim borrowing of words or ideas through paraphrasing or summarizing another’s work(s) without proper attribution.

  1. fabricating or altering citations;
  2. giving or receiving, or attempting to give or receive, unauthorized assistance or information in an assignment or examination;
  3. submitting the same assignment in two or more courses without prior permission of both instructors;
  4. having another person write a paper or sit for an examination (includes online paper-mills);
  5. using tests or papers from students in prior semesters;

Other Classroom Rules

  1. Without a documented disability, no electronic devices may be used in class, including lap tops, cell phones, tablets, I-watches, etc. Devices are not allowed to be out of backpacks or purses during quizzes and exams. Any student who is caught with one of these devices out will have his/her test/quiz taken and will be charged with the Honor Code violation of cheating.
  2. Students must not be chronically late, absent or disruptive; otherwise, your grade will suffer. If you have an activity (class, work, athletic practice, etc.) that meets just before this class, you are still expected to make it to class on time. If you cannot make it to class on time, then do not take this course. Once class has started, students should only leave the room in cases of emergency. This means students should take care of all personal business before class begins. Except in emergencies, students will not be allowed to leave and return to the classroom during an exam.

Classroom Conduct

I am committed to providing a classroom environment free of all forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, political philosophy, religion, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. If you have experienced or experiences discrimination, domestic violence, sexual assault or sexual harassment, know that you are not alone. Resources and support are available. Learn more at  Any and all of your communications on these matters will be treated as either “Strictly Confidential” or “Mostly Confidential” as explained in the chart below. Note: As a professor, I am required by law to report anything reported to me regarding incidents of sexual harassment, assault, or discrimination. I am a “mostly confidential” source.


Strictly Confidential Mostly Confidential
Except in extreme circumstances, involving imminent danger to one’s self or others, nothing will be shared without your explicit permission. Conversations are kept as confidential as possible, but information is shared with key staff members so the University can offer resources and accommodations and take action if necessary for safety reasons.
Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) | (504) 314-2277 Coordinator of Violence Prevention | (504) 314-2161


Student Health Center | (504) 865-5255 Tulane University Police (TUPD) | (504) 865-5911
Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education (SAPHE) | (504) 654-9543 Office of Institutional Equity | (504) 862-8083



Extra Credit Events:

When there are public lectures or other scholarly events on campus (or off) that focus on public policy, students may attend the event for extra credit. These events must be open to the public and available to everyone in class. I must announce the event to everyone, but if you see something that seems relevant, feel free to let me know. I need a few days’ notice. (Note: Events cannot retroactively be counted as extra credit.)


You may get credit for no more than three events. In addition to attending approved events, students must write a short paper (2-3 pages) analyzing the speaker’s remarks. Papers are due one week from the class immediately following the event. It is the student’s responsibility to remember to turn in the papers. At the end of the semester, I will add the extra credit to the part of the grade most in need of help.

Course Schedule and Reading Assignments


Jan 12: Introductions (no reading)


Jan 14: What is the proper role of government and how does one’s answer affect public policy?

Reading: “Capitalism & Freedom,” Milton Friedman; “The Libertarian Illusion,” William Hudson (BB)

Jan 19: Solving Value Conflict

Reading: “Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent & Current Laws,” Kathleen Swendiman; “Managing Value Conflict in Public Policy,” Thacher & Rein (BB)


Jan 21: The Submerged State

Reading: “Governance Unseen,” & “The Politics of the Submerged State,” Suzanne Mettler (BB)


Jan 26: Intro to Multiple Theories

Reading: “In Search of a Framework to Understand the Policy Process,” Stella Z. Theodoulou (BB)


Jan 28: Closer Look at Rational Choice Theory

Reading: “Bounded Rationality and Rational Choice Theory,” Bryan D. Jones, et al.; “Policy Models & Equal Educational Opportunity,” Joseph Stewart (BB)

Problem ID & Agenda Setting

Feb 2: Policy Research

Reading: Part I, Bardach

Note: I strongly recommend that you also read Parts II and III before writing your policy memo or brief.


Feb 4: Agenda-Setting

Reading: “Agendas and Instability,” Frank Baumgartner & Bryan Jones; “Why Some Issues Rise and Others are Negated,” John Kingdon (BB)

Policy Memo Due


Feb 9: No Class (Mardi Gras)


Feb 11: Constructing Violence & Victimization on College Campuses

Reading: Chapters 1-2, Sloan & Fisher


Feb 16: Shootings on College Campuses

Reading: Chapter 3, Sloan & Fisher


Feb 18: Rape on College Campuses

Reading: Chapter 4, Sloan & Fisher


Feb 23: Binge Drinking & Institutionalization of “Dark Side”

Reading: Chapters 6-7, Sloan & Fisher


Feb 25: Midterm Exam

Actors & Tools


March 1: The President & the Courts

Reading: “Presidential Policymaking: Race to the Top, Executive Power and the Obama Education Agenda,” Patrick McGuinn; “Decision-making in a Democracy: The Supreme Court as a National Policy-maker,” Robert Dahl (BB)


March 3: The Role of Interest Groups

Reading: “Inside the Power of the N.R.A.,” Robert Draper (BB); “5 Facts about the NRA and Guns in America,” Bruce Drake


March 8: The Media

Reading: “News That Matters,” Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder; “Red Media, Blue Media: Evidence of Ideological Selectivity in Media Use,” Shanto Iyengar & Kyu S. Hahn (BB)


March 10: Policy Tools & Social Constructions

Reading: Appendix B, Bardach; “Social Construction of Target Populations,” & “Behavioral Assumptions of Policy Tools,” Anne Schneider & Helen Ingram (BB)


Passing the Affordable Care Act


March 15: Policy Formulation & Health Care

Reading: Starr, Intro + Chapters 1-2


March 17: Massachusetts Model + Obama’s Priority

Reading: Starr, chapters 6-7


March 22/24 – No Class (Spring Break)


March 29: The Affordable Care Act

Reading: Starr, chapters 8-9

Policy Implementation & Evaluation


March 31: Implementation & Rule-making

Reading: “A Conceptual Framework of the Implementation Process,” Sabatier & Mazmanian; “Sweet-Talking the Fourth Branch,” Susan Webb Yackee (BB)


April 5: The Bureaucracy

Reading: “Bureaucracy,” Max Weber; “What Do I Need to Vote? Bureaucratic Discretion & Discrimination by Local Election Officials,” Ariel R. White, et al. (BB)


April 7: No Class


April 12: Implementation of No Child Left Behind

Reading: Manna, Chapters 1-3

Policy Brief Due


April 14: Local Responses to NCLB

Reading: Manna, Chapters 4-5


April 19: Implications

Reading: Manna, Chapter 6-7


April 21: Policy Evaluation

Reading: “The Role of Evaluation in Public Policy,” David Nachmias (BB): Others TBD


April 26: Policy Termination

Reading: “Policy Change or Termination,” Theodoulou & Kofinis; “The President’s Pleasant Surprise,” Nathaniel Frank (BB)


Final Exam: Tuesday, May 3, 9am [Note time change]