Political Science 407-2/507 Civil Rights, Liberties, and the Constitution

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Civil Liberties: Those liberties usually spelled out in a bill of rights or a constitution that guarantee the protection of persons, opinions, and property from the arbitrary interference of governmental officials. Restraint may be placed on the exercise of these liberties only when they are abused by individuals or groups and when

the public welfare requires it.

Civil Rights: Positive acts of government designed to protect persons against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by government or individuals. Civil rights guarantees are sometimes written into constitutions, but frequently take the form of statutes. Often confused with civil liberties, the term civil rights has been expanded to includeApolitical rights,@ which generally refers to the right to participate in the selection and management of government, such as voting, as well as Aequal rights,@ or those efforts to achieve equality between men and women.

The American Political Dictionary, 7th edition

Political Science 407-2/507

Civil Rights, Liberties, and the Constitution
Fayard 239 Professor: Dr. Peter A. Petrakis

T&Th 9:30-10:45 355 D Fayard Hall

Office Hours: MWF 12-1, MW 2-3:30 Phone: 549-3465

T&Th 12-2 e-mail ppetrakis@selu.edu

Course Description

As an examination of the civil rights and civil liberties in the United States of America, this course focuses on the Federal Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular. By carefully reading summaries of U.S. Supreme Court cases and other materials, students come to grips with the history and development as well as the legal reasoning behind the emergence of various constitutional rights and protections. In order to succeed in this course, students must acquire the analytical and interpretive skills to read and decipher legal texts. Additionally, students will be required to write a research paper on specific legal issues.

Required Texts

Rental: Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties and Justice, vol. 4, Epstein and Walker.

Bookstore: Storm Center, 6th edition, David O=Brien.
Course Requirements
Exams and Grading: Students will be evaluated on the basis of five criteria. Two essay examinations, one at midterm and the other during the final examination period, will be given covering both the reading and lecture material. Each exam is worth 25% of the final grade. A research paper of about 8 to 12 pages is also required. Topics must be approved by the professor. A book exam on Baum, The Storm Center, will be worth 15%. Periodically, students will be required to turn in legal Abriefs.@ Given that these briefs are, in part, an effort to guarantee that students are keeping up with the reading assignments, I reserve the prerogative to ask for briefs on any class meeting. Additionally, I will give out two to three Ahypotheticals@ where students will be presented with constitutional issues that must be evaluated.

Grade Breakdown:

Midterm Examination - 25%

Final Examination - 25%

Research Paper - 20%

Baum Book Exam - 15%

Legal Briefs and Hypotheticals - 15%

Grading scale
100-90 = A

90-89 = B

79-70 = C

69-60 = D

59% and below = F

Students must take all three exams and turn research papers in order to pass this course. No one will be allowed to retake, drop, or count any exam twice. No one will be exempt from the final examination, which will be given in the regular classroom and at the time listed in both the Schedule Bulletin and listed in this syllabus. All final exams will be given during final exam week and no one will be allowed to reschedule final exams except for graduating seniors whose exams fall on Thursday or Friday of exam week. In such instances, graduating seniors will be required to take finals earlier in the exam week. All course grades are final and will not be changed unless there is an error in calculation. There will be no individual extra credit assignments so do not ask.

Course Policies

Attendance: Students are expected to follow the attendance policy as stated in the 2002-2003 General SLU Catalogue (p. 59): AClass attendance is regarded as an obligation as well as a privilege, and all students are expected to attend regularly and punctually all classes in which they are enrolled. Failure to do so may jeopardize a student scholastic standing and may lead to suspension from the college or university . . . . A student shall submit excuses for all class absences . . . within three class days after the student returns to his respective class . . . . When any student that receives unexcused absences (e.g., ten percent of the total classes) in any class, the instructor may withdraw the student with a grade of W.

Unfortunately, experience has taught that I must make additional comments. I will not tolerate excessive absenteeism. Students with more than five unexcused absences may have 10% deducted from their final average and an additional 10% for each subsequent unexecused absence. Furthermore, although I seldom draw attention to students who attend late, habitual tardiness will not be tolerated. Furthermore, extreme tardiness defeats the purpose of attendance and is disruptive. If you are more than 10 minutes late, do not bother attending. Also, if you must leave the class prior to the scheduled time, you should contact me prior to class. If there is an emergency and you must excuse yourself please, by all means, do so. But when you return, contact me and explain the situation. In short, students will not be permitted to simply come and go at their pleasure.

It is the responsibility of the student to obtain class notes missed due to absences legitimate or otherwise from other students in the class. Lectures will not be repeated. Warning: any student arriving late to an examination, especially if someone has completed the exam, will not be allowed to take that exam. Furthermore, such lapses will not be counted as a legitimate excuse for a make-up.

This course is registered on Blackboard and as such students should access important information by going to www.roomie.selu.edu. The syllabus, announcements and grades will be posted on Blackboard.

Military Service: The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System has a policy governing students called up for military service during the course of a semester. SLU adheres to that policy.
Make-up exams: All make-up exams will be given during the final examination. There will be no exceptions. Do not expect make-up exams to be identical in form or content to original examinations. For example, make-ups may be fill in the blank, short answer, or essay exams. In addition, do not expect to automatically be granted a make-up, only acceptable excuses (medical, legitimate extra-curricular, etc.) are guaranteed.
Special Needs: Any student that requires special attention due to a real necessity, such as a learning, hearing, seeing, or movement impediment, should advise the instructor immediately. Appropriate measures will be taken. SLU is committed to compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, but students are required to self-identify with the Office of Student Life, Room 203, Student Union.
Attention: Students are responsible for reading, understanding, and keeping this syllabus. It is an important document that clearly details both students= and instructor's responsibilities. If you lose this syllabus, come see me or access the syllabus on the Blackboard website and get another one. It is an important document. I will pass around a syllabus receipt form where you will sign that you indeed received a copy of your syllabus.

Additionally, do not burden the department with minor complaints! I am available to discuss tests, grades, or more specific problems. If I am not on campus, simply leave a message on my answer machine and I will contact you promptly. Repeat, do not complain to the department until you have exhausted your options with meCpenalties will be imposed for inattention to this warning! Students can be penalized up to 5 points from their final average.

Important Dates and Information

  • Monday, January 20 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

  • Tuesday, January 21 First day of classes

  • Monday-Tuesday, March 3-4 Mardi Gras Holiday

  • Wednesday, March 5 classes resume at noon

  • Friday, March 21 Last day to withdraw or resign

  • Friday, April 18-25 Spring Break

  • Friday, May 9 Last day of classes

  • Monday, May 11 Final Exam @ 12:30-2:30

Class rosters will be distributed very early in the term. All non-paying students will be omitted from class rolls on this date. These rolls are important in that no student will be allowed to remain in a class if their names do not appear on the official class roster.

Course Outline
I. Introduction
Part I: Judicial Context

C-1 (Esptein and Walker)


Part II: Civil Liberties

C-4 Religious Freedom

  • Free Exercise

  • Establishment Clause

C-5 Free Speech

C-6 Freedom of the Press

C-7 Boundaries of Free Expression
Mid Term Examination - March 14
C-8 Right to Privacy
Part IV: Civil Rights

C-11 Discrimination

  • Racial Discrimination

Book Exam - Storm Center - April 11

  • Sex Discrimination

  • Sexual Orientation

C-12 Voting
Research Paper - due April 30
Final Exam, Monday, May 11 @ 12:30-2:30

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