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February 14, 2008

More specifics on my proposed first assignment

Here is a quick outline of the assignment I have in mind for the class to "wrap up" our discussion of structural issues and the legislative process:

Format:  I will expect a written paper to be submitted no later than March 24 and to be no more than 1000 words.  Earlier submissions are welcome and encouraged.

Expectations:  In the 1000 words, you need to state and explain your "who" choice (which you can be changed for this paper) and then, from the perspective of that "who," either (1) set forth and defend any (small or large) structural reform proposal that you think would improve the American political and legal system, OR (2) provide a critical commentary on any aspect of how Congress has investigated the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.  The best papers will be sure to draw in some way on (a) casebook readings, and/or (b) class discussions, and/or (c) blog readings and comments.  The best papers will also be thoughtful, cogent, well-written and polished, as all formal documents produced by lawyers should be.

Grading: Papers will be graded on a 10-point scale, and this assignment will count up to 20% of each students' final grade for the class.  Any student interested in having the assignment include an oral component can schedule a time during Spring Break for a "paper discussion."  Performance during any such discussion can raise or lower a student's grade on this assignment by no more than 2 points on the 10-point scale.  (And students can get a 10 without any "paper discussion" by producing a really good paper.) 

Impact on the final:  I am still expecting to have a take-home final for the class, but the exact nature and format of that final likely will depend in part of the "success" of this first assignment (and on expressed interest of students).

Key aspects of this proposal are certainly subject to adjustment -- especially the word-limit, the exact due date, and the assignment's percentage of the final grade.  And, as suggested in class, if there is a clear consensus against this proposal in any form, I will eliminate this assignment altogether.

I look forward to reading any comments here on this proposal and also to discussing this proposal more fully during our next class on Wednesday, February 20.

February 14, 2008 in Debating the final | Permalink


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So, is it possible, if one does the oral component, to get over 10 points--or under zero points? I can't figure out if doing the oral component is a substitute for 2 points of the paper or if it is in addition to. Thanks.

Posted by: stephanie | Feb 14, 2008 10:47:54 PM

Since some of us are going out of town the week of the oral discussion, could we move the week?

Posted by: Hyatt Shirkey | Feb 15, 2008 12:19:14 AM

The final grade on this assignment for everyone --- whether or not they take advantage of the optional "paper discussion" opportunity --- will be between 0 and 10. For those eager to talk, there is the chance to earn or lose up to 2 points within this scale (and some folks may orally perform in a way that neither improves nor diminishes thier final score on this assignment).

I will make myself available for the optional "paper discussion" opportunity at times other that Spring Break, but my strong preference is to schedule the discussions during this period whenever possible.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 15, 2008 8:24:07 AM

How much outside research are we expected to do especially if we are going with option 1? Are we going to be limited to our casebook and in class discussions? My concern is that researching a structural reform could take up an entire spring break (if not more), which seems a bit out of line with a 1000 word essay.

Posted by: Christina | Feb 15, 2008 11:35:04 AM

No outside research is required or expected for this assignment, though outside research is not prohibited.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 16, 2008 8:13:47 AM

The class poll results in:
63% of the class agrees with the proposal,
33% of the class disagrees with the proposal,
4% abstain from comment

Posted by: Theresa | Feb 18, 2008 12:06:06 PM

I have some issues with the election. Many people were confused as to what exactly we were voting on. Was this an acceptance of Berman's idea as is? Were we also agreeing to the take home final? There was no clarity as to what exactly we were voting on.

Posted by: anonymous | Feb 18, 2008 12:27:24 PM

We were voting only on whether to accept or reject the proposal for the 20%. I don't think we have a choice as to whether or not to agree to a take home final or however Berman chooses to examine us. I'm pretty sure we discussed this in the moments before the vote, as someone asked this question.

No hanging chads or butterfly ballots in this vote :)

Posted by: Michale Wilt | Feb 18, 2008 5:24:12 PM

Honestly, I'm not sure what we were voting on. Some said Berman's proposal, other's said just the 20%.

There may not have been hanging chads or butterfly ballots, but I think there was definite confusion about what exactly we were and were not voting on.

Posted by: Tim Nittle | Feb 18, 2008 5:43:37 PM

Having explored the paper option I think it will be very hard to do in 1,000 words if citations count as part of that limit. So I would like to ask for the limit to be raised to 1,500 or some middle ground between those two figures.

Posted by: Amanda McNeil | Feb 18, 2008 6:22:20 PM

About the results of the poll, there were only 48 counted votes, but there were also 3 votes for the proposal who were clicker-less. Both the discussion prior to voting and the post seem to indicate that this was just in regard to this 20% of the grade and the rest is yet to be determined, which is something that should make us go hmmmm

Posted by: Amanda McNeil | Feb 18, 2008 6:26:07 PM

Thanks, Amanda, for noting the vote count. I wondered about that.

I was not sure if voting 'yes' meant that we accepted the proposal as posted on this site, or if a 'yes' vote meant support of the general idea, but that the proposal was still subject to modifications.

Posted by: stephanie | Feb 18, 2008 6:42:53 PM

I guess it is subject to modification, definitely. Just not major ones (changing it from a paper to an interpretive dance, for instance!).

Posted by: Michale Wilt | Feb 18, 2008 8:19:48 PM

I'm sorry if people were confused. It was for this reason that I announced loudly and argued a bit with Kristen about what we were voting on. Before the vote I made sure to say "we are not voting on the full proposal, just that 20% of our grade will be based on the paper". I'm sorry if I wasn't loud enough, but I believe the vote is pretty conclusive given the numbers. If that were a presidential election, we would be beyond the realm of landslide and into the world of annihilation.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 18, 2008 9:51:42 PM

But I don't think everyone understood that. The numbers initially reported were reported as being in favor of Berman's proposal. The proposal includes the potential for a paper to account for 20% of the grade, but still leaves a number of questions of what is actually being firmly decided. This is different than the belief that 20% of our grade will definitely be based on this paper.

And in terms of numbers, the percentage in favor would have been enough to elect a new President. But there's always another side to the numbers.

The percentage in favor today would have failed to invoke cloture in the Senate on a motion or measure that amends Senate rules (a 2/3 majority is needed instead of the regular 3/5 majority).

And the percentage in favor today would have failed to pass a Constitutional amendment by the Congressional 2/3 majority necessary for it to be considered by the states for ratification - and there the states must pass it by a 3/4 majority.

Posted by: Tim Nittle | Feb 18, 2008 11:02:20 PM

My who (impacted citizen) would not be voting for some of you for re-election.

Posted by: Alexandra Dattilo | Feb 19, 2008 4:19:09 PM

I'm really surprised there is this much confusion, even confusion about whether or not it's confusing - which has confused me.

I thought this was just to determine "if there is a clear consensus against this proposal in any form." It was an up or down vote on the paper, as proposed by Berman - NOT the whole other portion of our grade, since that was to be dependent on the success of this paper, as he explained.

Posted by: Scott Rowley | Feb 19, 2008 5:38:21 PM

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