Approved by Faculty Senate


New Course Proposal

Political Science 220: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

 A. Course Description

1. Catalog description:

A survey of current controversies regarding civil rights and civil liberties, such as the right to privacy, freedom of speech, affirmative action, sexual harassment, gay rights, et al. Recommended: POLS 120. P/NC option.

2. See enclosed syllabus

3. See enclosed syllabus

4. Lecture, discussion (perhaps occasional small-group work).

5. See enclosed syllabus

6. See enclosed syllabus

7. Bibliography:

Alderman, Ellen and Caroline Kennedy. In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. New York: Avon Books, 1991.

Gerstmann, Evan. The Constitutional Underclass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Glendon, Mary Ann. Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. New York: The Free Press, 1991.

Mill, J.S. On Liberty. New York: Penguin Classics, 1987.

Williams, Juan. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. New York: Times Books, 1998.



B. Rationale

This course contributes to the department’s curriculum by offering students a bridge between the introductory American politics class and the challenge of POLS 320: Constitutional Law. Also, students who are interested in civil rights and civil liberties issues may be more attracted to this course rather than the more technical legal discussions in Constitutional Law. Finally, this course offers a chance to fully integrate both the law and politics of selected issues in a detailed way, only focusing on four or so issues per semester, rather than the survey approach of Constitutional Law. No specific courses will be dropped or banked due to this course.


C. Notification

This course will not increase the requirements of any major or minor program.


D. "G" Courses

This course will only be offered at the undergraduate level.


E. General Education Course Proposals

This course will be submitted for approval as a USP course under the category of Democratic Institutions (see additional documentation).


Political Science 220: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Fall 2001

Professor Bosworth

Course Syllabus

Office Hours: MWF 10:00-11:00 A.M., MW 3:00-4:00 P.M., TR 8:15 A.M.-10:45 A.M. in Minne 123.

Office Phone: 457-5009

email: (checked regularly)

Note: If this schedule does not work for you, please let me know and we'll make an alternate arrangement.

Course Description:

In America, we commonly describe our form of government as a "democracy", consisting of rule by the people. Many unresolved issues underlie that simple term, though. For example, democracy presupposes some form of equality between citizens, as expressed in the Supreme Court’s formulation of voting rights, "one person, one vote". In America, though, equality has often been more ideal than real for millions of persons, due partly to biases based on race, class, gender, and other personal characteristics. The history of America does feature gradual widening of political opportunities for previously disenfranchised persons, though, as reflected in various civil rights laws and Supreme Court decisions. There never has been a time of complete agreement on the definition of equality, though, and today is no exception. Affirmative action, sexual harassment, and hate crimes laws are only a few of the contentious civil rights issues that America has yet to resolve. Some commentators argue that America must move beyond race and gender, especially as racial issues become more than just black and white, and stress facial equality in the law, with no special treatment for anyone. Others respond that facial equality is unrealistic, given both the history of inequalities and their lingering effects today. More needs to be done to ensure that legal equality becomes true equality.

Another question left unresolved in the term "democracy" is whether there are limits to what a majority of the people can require of themselves and minorities through laws, and where those limits are. In other words, what are the liberties of citizens that even majorities cannot take away? This question has gained increasing relevance over time. Government at every level (federal, state, and local) is growing, leading to more and more opportunities for invasion of citizens’ rights, even if the purpose of these intrusions is noble, intending to protect the rights of others. Issues surrounding the right to personal privacy are becoming more and more central- e.g. the recent Health and Human Services regulations designed to protect patients’ medical records from unconsenting disclosure. Surveillance of citizens is increasingly common, even here at Winona State. Over time, the U.S. Supreme Court generally has expanded individual rights as a counterweight against larger government, but where should the new boundaries be? Finally, what should we do when civil rights and civil liberties conflict, such as with campus speech codes and/or sexual harassment? What is the proper balance?

These are some of the questions that this course should make you think about. I have two main goals for this class that I will push you to achieve. First, you should gain a basic knowledge of the development of American civil rights and civil liberties across a range of topics. Second, you should develop your powers of logic and critical thinking. In other words, you will have to think, read, and write clearly, skills which are key parts of a good university education.


USP Course Outcomes (Unity and Diversity: Democratic Institutions):

Students should:

a) understand the principles upon which democratic governments are based;

c) identify, state, and justify value judgements related to democratic institutions;

e) understand the implications of taking responsibility for the consequences of their own actions for democratic institutions;

f) understand the relation of equal rights to democratic institutions;

g) understand the need to exercise responsibility for the expression of their ideas.


Required readings are drawn from the following books, which are available for purchase at the campus bookstore, plus any class handouts.

Cain, Patricia A. Rainbow Rights: The Role of Lawyers and Courts in the Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Movement. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000.

Rosen, Jeffrey. The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America. New York: Random House, 2000.

Shiell, Timothy. Campus Hate Speech on Trial. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1998.

Sullivan, Harold J. Civil Rights and Liberties: Provocative Questions and Evolving Answers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001.


Course Requirements:

Three examinations will form the bulk of your grade for the class, two midterms and a final, all in-class, and all combinations of multiple choice and essay. The three exams will be weighed roughly equally, with a slight preference for the final. You are allowed to write an optional 4-6 page paper that will count for a fourth grade (all weighed equally), due at least two weeks before the last day of class. Paper topics must be relevant to the course material and must be approved by the instructor. Class attendance and participation will be used to decide borderline grades. Note: if for some serious reason you cannot take an exam at the scheduled time period, you are expected to let me know immediately, subject to my permission. Any deviation from this policy may result in either grade reduction or failure, subject to my discretion.


Course Outline:

I. Course Introduction

II. Foundations of Civil Liberty and Freedom of Conscience (USP outcomes a, c, e, f, g)

A. Foundations

Readings: J.S. Mill, On Liberty (reserve); Sullivan, Chapter 1

B. Modern Freedom of Speech and Conscience

Readings: Shiell, Campus Hate Speech on Trial; Sullivan, Chapters 2, 3

************************FIRST EXAM**********************************

III. Civil Rights and Equality (USP outcomes a, c, f)

A. Constitutional Overview

Reading: Sullivan, Chapter 4

B. Modern Controversies

Reading: Cain, Rainbow Rights

***********************SECOND EXAM**********************************


IV. Privacy and Civil Rights (USP outcomes a, c, e, f, g)

A. Constitutional Overview

Reading: Sullivan, Chapter 5

B. Modern Controversies

Reading: Rosen, The Unwanted Gaze


*******************************FINAL EXAM**************************

(Thursday, May 3rd at 8:00 A.M.)


University Studies Course Approval Form

1. Department or Program Political Science

2. Course Number 220

3. Semester Hours 3

4. Frequency of Offering Every year, 40-60 students

5. Course Title Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

6. Catalog Description

A survey of current controversies regarding civil rights and civil liberties, such as the right to privacy, freedom of speech, affirmative action, sexual harassment, gay rights, et al. Recommended: POLS 120. P/NC option.

7. This is an existing course previously approved by A2C2 No

8. This is a new course proposal…. Yes

9. University Studies Requirement this course would satisfy

Unity and Diversity, Democratic Institutions

10. Department Contact Person for this course Yogesh Grover- 457-5415

11. General Course Outcomes

PoliSci 220 introduces students to some basic questions regarding the proper place of individual civil rights and liberties in a democracy. First, democracy presupposes equality among citizens. What counts as equality, though, socially and politically? Second, generally Americans assume that they possess certain rights that even democratic majorities cannot take away. What are those rights, though, under what circumstances do they apply, and what is lost in the tradeoff? Can the common good be achieved while protecting individual liberty? Finally, how should we strike the balance when civil rights and liberties conflict? Students should gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of their citizenship from this class. They should also further develop their critical thinking skills of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking.

12. Course Outcomes


a. Understand the principles upon which democratic governments are based

As noted above, this course will discuss the core principles of equality and majority rule- their definitions and limits. For example, does equality mean freedom from sexual harassment, and how should that term be defined? Also, if a majority wants to restrict free speech rights to avoid offense to minorities, is this justifiable?

c. Identify, state, and justify value judgements related to democratic institutions

The entire course will essentially meet this criteria- I can’t think of any material that would not achieve this outcome. Students on the essay portions of their exams will be expected to make arguments for a position, and defend those arguments against opposing claims.

e. Understand the implications of taking responsibility for the consequences of their own actions for democratic institutions

Students should question their own behavior and its implications as a part of this course. For example, a discussion of speech codes on campus and the tradeoff between security and privacy regarding the computers and dorm hallways of WSU should lead them to question the meaning of their citizenship and its rights and responsibilities.

f. Understand the relation of equal rights to democratic institutions

See general course outcomes.

g. Understand the need to exercise responsibility for the expression of their ideas

Although students will not be required to assert any particular viewpoint regarding freedom of expression, they will be forced to confront competing perspectives on free speech. For example, we likely will discuss the harms that can result from hate speech and/or sexual harassment, and balance that against the liberties of the speaker, including due process of law.