University of Utah
Introduction to Law
Political Science 3201
Instructor: Susan M. Olson, Associate Professor and Chair Department of Political Science

With Political Science (POLS) 3201, Introduction to Law: Service-Learning, I am adopting a new structure for service-learning, which has also been adopted for POLS 3300 (Introduction to Public Administration) and 3301. POLS 3201 is a one-credit servicelearning course associated with POLS 3200, Introduction to Law and Courts. Students must be currently registered for POLS 3200 to register for the service-learning course, but students in POLS 3200 are not required to register for POLS 3201. This is an alternative approach for making service-learning an optional part of a course, in lieu of, for example, offering a paper assignment instead of the service-learning. With my approach, all students in POLS 3200 will do the same assignments, reducing the problem of "comparing apples and oranges" in assigning final grades.

I plan to present the service-learning option the first day of class and invite representatives of the agencies where students might work to describe their opportunities and hopefully interest many of the students in signing up for POLS 3201. Students will be able to add POLS 3201 to their schedules during the normal two-week add period for registration.

Introduction to Law and Courts will be taught for the first time in Autumn 1998. It is a heavily revised version of a quarter class titled Elements of Law. The syllabus for this new course is still in development, but I enclose an updated version of the syllabus I submitted last winter or spring to the Social Science Area Committee. The course received designation as a social science "intellectual exploration" course at the integration level. I expect it to be quite a large course of perhaps 80-100 students. A preliminary syllabus for POLS 3201 is also attached.

I have not yet contacted agencies for possible placements, but I plan to do so over the summer, well before the semester begins. I have asked my department's Bennion Center liaison, Seamus Barry, to identify projects the Center already has running that may be relevant to this course, and I have several ideas myself about appropriate placements. These include Legal Aid Society, Children's Justice Center, Legal Center for People with Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union, juvenile courts, and mediation programs run by the Third District Court and the Utah Law and Justice Center.

I will expect students in POLS 3201 to do three hours of service weekly for the one-credit course. There will also be written assignments, as discussed below, but no additional reading. Since this is my first time to plan a service-learning course, I welcome suggestions and advice from the Bennion Center staff and advisory committee. I am especially wondering if my intended assignments are overly ambitious. My plans for POLS 3201 address the criteria for service-learning courses in the following ways:

  1. Students in the class provide a needed service to individuals, organizations, schools, or other entities in the community. I am confident that by working with representatives of the placement agencies we will define projects that provide truly needed service.
  2. The service experience relates to the subject matter of the course. The subject matter of the course is the functioning of the legal and judicial system at the grass- roots level. The effects of community non-ns and institutions on the legal system and vice versa are at the heart of the course. Working with agencies that help citizens who are in contact with the legal system should provide the students with many connections between their service experience and the class readings, lectures, and discussion.
  3. Activities in the class provide a method or methods for students to think about what they learned through the service experience and how these learnings related to the subject of the class. Several opportunities will exist for students to reflect on their service experiences and tie them to course materials. The service-learning students will be expected to make weekly journal entries, which will be structured along the lines described in an appendix to the Bennion Center's Faculty Guide. These will be collected and read bi-weekly. Every four weeks we will schedule group reflection sessions with the instructor or teaching assistant. The instructor and teaching assistant will also maintain regular office hours for individual consultation with students. Relationships they have identified between the service and the learning will be the main focus of the students' final papers.
  4. The course offers a method to assess the learning derived from the service. Credit is given for the learning and its relation to the course, not for the service alone. Grades will be based on journal entries, a final paper, a class presentation, and the quality of service provided to the agency. I chose to include the quality of service as one portion of the grade to avoid the risk of students not fulfilling their commitments to the agencies but nonetheless managing to turn in credible-looking written assignments.
  5. Service interactions in the community recognize the needs of service recipients, and offer an opportunity for recipients to be involved in the evaluation of the service. The placements will be developed in consultation with the community agencies, and they will have a chance to evaluate the quality of service students provide, as described in #4 above. If this criterion's reference to "service recipients" means the agencies/clients rather than staff, I will need to work with those staff to see how to involve clients in evaluation.
  6. The service opportunities are aimed at the development of the civic education of students even though they may also be focused on career preparation. Many students who take Introduction to Law and Courts may be at least considering careers in law. The nature of the course, however, is definitely oriented to broad political and sociological study of the legal system rather than to current legal rules. The objective of the course is to give students an understanding of the role of law as an organizing and restraining mechanism in society and its relation to other social institutions. Such an understanding is valuable for all citizens and not just for lawyers. I will make it clear to agency contacts (and the students!) that my course does not prepare students to give legal advice and work with the agencies to develop appropriate assignments.
  7. Knowledge from the discipline informs the service experiences with which the students are involved. The readings in the associated course draw quite widely across the social sciences, which is appropriate for a course approved for general education credit. These readings will suggest generalizations about the interaction of law and society, which the students should be able to compare to their experiences doing service.
  8. The class offers a way to learn from other class members as well as from the instructor. The three group reflection sessions and the presentations to POLS 3200 are intended to provide this opportunity.
  9. Course options ensure that no student is required to participate in a service placement that creates a religious, political and/or moral conflict for the student. The range of agencies I have in mind for possible placements, listed above, includes advocacy groups, community service organizations, and public agencies. I hope to have enough variety in the opportunities actually offered for students to have both options to choose from initially and alternatives should problems arise with an initial placement.

Political Science 3200: Introduction to Law and Courts (3 credits)

Course Description and Learning Objectives

This course is an introduction to the social scientific study of law. It does not presume any background in political science, and the readings are very interdisciplinary, including works by political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and legal scholars. In the terms of the general education requirements, this is a social science "intellectual exploration" course at the integration level. It draws on fundamental social science ideas such as the relationships between institutions and individual behavior, between state and society (i.e., public versus private spheres), and between different social classes.

The course explores the role of law strengths and weaknesses of law as a means of social ordering and the relationship between law and politics. It examines both the impact that law has on society and the impact that society has on law through the functions of social control, dispute resolution, and social change. The course focuses mainly on the lower levels of the American legal system, routine civil, criminal, and administrative cases and the disputes that precede them. If you are interested in a class that focuses mainly on the peak of the American legal system, the U.S. Supreme Court and its role in making public policy, ask the instructor about other political science courses.

In this class you will be introduced to the idea of framing researchable questions and to different methods of social scientific inquiry. You will also learn a great deal about cur-rent social science findings about the actual functioning of legal systems from the work of scholars who follow these methods. Although the course concentrates on the contemporary American legal system, some readings compare the U.S. experience to other countries and discussion of the evolution of legal systems will give you a feel for the historical development of legal systems and behavior. Guest speakers and possibly films will supplement the readings, lectures, and class discussion.

Service-Learning Component

This course has an optional one-credit service-learning add-on. During the first week several community service opportunities related to the legal system and the work requirements of the service-learning component will be presented. Students who are interested will then register for Political Science 3201 for one credit. This course is open only to students who are simultaneously enrolled in Political Science 3200.

Required Readings

Stephen Vago, Law and Society , 5th edition

Stewart Macaulay, Lawrence M. Friedman, John Stookey, Law & Society: Readings on the Social Study of Law

Christopher E. Smith, Courts and the Poor

Schedule of Topics

Week 1: Overview of the course and organization of service-learning component

Week 2: Varieties of legal systems and their common functions

Week 3: Theoretical and methodological approaches to law, society, and politics

Week 4: Overview of law-making, -enforcing, and -interpreting institutions

Weeks 5 and 6: Social and political influences on law-making

Weeks 7 and 8: Informal and formal social control--criminal and administrative law

Week 9: Juvenile justice

Weeks 10 and 11: Law and dispute resolution

Weeks 12 and 13: Law and social change

Weeks 14 and 15: The legal profession

POLS 3201 is a one-credit service-learning course intended to be an optional add- on to POLS 3200, Introduction to Law and Courts. Students must be currently registered for POLS 3200 to register for POLS 3201.

The subject matter of Introduction to Law and Courts is the functioning of the legal and judicial system at the grass-roots level. The effects of community norms and institutions on the legal system and vice versa are at the heart of the course. Servicelearning involves working with agencies that help citizens who are in contact with the legal system. The service-learning experience should bring alive the class readings, lectures, and discussion and show you a strong connection between academic learning and "real life." In addition, you will be providing important service to community agencies and the people they serve.

Students who register for POLS 3201 must do three hours weekly of service for a judicial agency or a community agency involved in helping people in their interactions with the legal system. Several alternative opportunities will be presented by agency representatives in the first day or two of class meetings for POLS 3200.

There will be no additional reading assignments for POLS 3201. The readings assigned for POLS 3200 should provide ample material for students to write their final paper for POLS 3201.

The grade for POLS 3201 will be determined as follows:

25% Weekly entries in a reflections journal (collected and read bi-weekly)

25% Quality of service provided (assessed with assistance of agency supervisor)

35% 8- 10 page paper relating service-learning experience to content of course

15% Oral presentation of service-learning experience to students in POLS 3200*

In the fourth, eighth and twelfth weeks of the semester, reflections sessions will be scheduled for group discussion of the service-learning experience. Presentations to the students in POLS 3200 will occur in the last 2-3 weeks of the semester.

Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 15:13:45 MST
From: Renee Buchanan <>
Subject: Political Science 3201