Menu Adam R Brown


Poli 110 (winter 2021)

Professor Adam Brown (about me)
Office phone: (801) 422-2182
Office: 772 KMBL

Current syllabus:
Syllabus version: April 20th, 2021

Teaching assistants may help with many questions. (You are always welcome to email me, also; questions about disability accommodations, personal emergencies, and other sensitive subjects should always come to me.) If your email requires more than a couple sentences to answer, we will probably ask to set up a meeting. Unless you need a specific TA, distribute the workload by emailing the TA whose name appears first below. (Names are shuffled each time you reload the page.) See the "Teaching Assistants" section later in this syllabus to learn what TAs can do for you.

Office hours and group sessions. TAs and I hold individual office hours where you can drop in for one-on-one help. We also hold review Q&A sessions to review recent quizzes, readings, and lectures; these are question-driven and end when attendees run out of questions. Find the "how to get help" heading below for more information about these formats. Zoom links are available via Learning Suite (click "Announcements" and find the oldest one).

See the online version of the syllabus for current office hours.

April 19

This schedule subject to change, so check here for updates.

April 20

10-11a, Brown
Office hours

2-3p, Eliza
Office hours

Also by appointment

April 21

Also by appointment



What's this course about?

Here is the BYU catalog's course description for Poli 110: "Origin and development of federal Constitution; national, state, and local governments and politics." Let's unpack that. This course consists of three major units:

This course meets general education requirements. We will discuss the scientific methods, theories, and assumptions used to study human behavior to satisfy the social science requirement. This course also contributes to the American heritage requirement. See the GE foundation documents for detail.

All the above motivates this course's official learning outcomes:

Download free electronic copies of required books from Learning Suite or using this link:

Required: Kernell et al., The Logic of American Politics. 7th, 8th, or 9th edition. A free PDF copy (8th edition) is available through course reserve. If you prefer hard copy, buy used on Amazon: 7th, 8th, 9th. The examples change in each edition, but the core concepts change minimally. Still, a caveat (that has never been a problem in practice): Relying on an older edition does not provide grounds to appeal an exam question that draws on the current one. Pro-tip: Use the practice quizzes and other study resources at the book's website.

Required: Brown, Utah Politics and Government. A free PDF copy is available through course reserve. If you prefer hard copy, the press waives my royalty for BYU students, saving you 30%, but you must order directly from the press (online or 800-848-6224) and use discount code 6UTPO. Also in the BYU Store and on Amazon. We will use Utah's political system as a frequent comparison point to the national system. This book also helps satisfy BYU students' natural curiosity about Latter-day Saints and politics.

Required: Follow American political news daily. To ensure we all see a common set of stories each day, sign up for the free daily news summary from the New York Times. Visit this link and subscribe to "The Morning" email. I have no particular attachment to the NYT, and I encourage you to consume news from a variety of sources. The email is free, but if you click through to see longer stories at the NYT website you will eventually hit the NYT paywall. Consider a student discount subscription, or get free access via the BYU library.

Optional: You do not need to read anything beyond what I assign below. Occasionally international students and others ask me to suggest additional background material to help them prepare. If you wish, consider reading one or both of these two short books: American History: A Very Short Introduction and American Politics: A Very Short Introduction.

Assignments, grading, and important policies

9% Quizzes (via Learning Suite)
1% Completion of student ratings
21% Debate papers (download instructions  and submit via Learning Suite)
20% Midterm 1 (via Learning Suite)
20% Midterm 2 (via Learning Suite)
29% Final exam (29% = 20% new material + 9% comprehensive)
Bonus Government meetings (download instructions  and submit via Learning Suite)

You are responsible for all the information in this syllabus, recognizing that a syllabus is a plan, not a contract. Check your email daily for updates, including your spam. Visit me or a TA with questions.

Course website. You will submit all quizzes, exams, and written assignments through Learning Suite. I find it easier to deliver readings and the course schedule through my personal website, though. Optional but encouraged: Consider creating a username and password for my website (after the add/drop deadline), which will make it somewhat easier to download PDFs from this site. Using the menu at the top or bottom of the page, click "log in" to get to the login screen, then "what's my password" to reset your password. Contact me if you have trouble.

Quizzes. Research shows that frequent low-stakes quizzes improve learning. To keep the stakes low, I will drop 4 quizzes by the end of the semester. Quizzes emphasize assigned readings, recent lectures, and perhaps current events. Complete all the readings and watch all the videos assigned for a particular day before attempting that day's quiz. Quizzes are administered via Learning Suite.

Late policy for quizzes and exams: Deadlines and late penalties are clear on Learning Suite. If you know of a conflict in advance, email me beforehand to make arrangements. I allow late submissions only to accommodate emergencies and documented disabilities. If you're not sure what qualifies, please ask. Copy all deadlines to your personal calendar so you do not inadvertently miss one.

Late policy for debate papers: Learning Suite will allow late submissions, but graders will deduct 10 percentage points per day late (excluding weekends and university holidays), up to 3 days late and 30 percentage points off. I will not accept later submissions. Penalties are based on date (not hour) of submission, using BYU's time zone. I waive these penalties or make individual exceptions only to accommodate emergencies and documented disabilities. If you're not sure what qualifies, ask. Please submit essays early to preempt unforeseen circumstances. If Learning Suite allows you to keep revising your essay after an initial submission, understand that penalties will reflect the date of your final edit.

Late policy for extra credit assignments: I do not accept extra credit after the deadline.

(Optional) government meeting assignment. I encourage you to attend local government meetings to observe politics in practice. If you complete this government meeting assignment , I will raise your overall percentage in the course by 1.25 percentage points. Complete it twice for 2.50 percentage points.

Grade appeals process for written work. TAs and I are happy to discuss your graded paper with you and suggest ways to improve, which is usually more productive than revisiting past grades. Still, I value fair and consistent grading, and I take appeals seriously. Actual appeals must come to me, not a TA. To appeal: Cool off for 24 hours, then re-read the complete assignment instructions, your submission, and any feedback you received. Then, within a week of first receiving your grade, send me a one-sentence email requesting that I review the grade, no justification needed. I will read the paper without checking the original grade and assign a score. The grade I assign stands, whether it is higher or lower. If there are many appeals, I may first refer your essay to a new TA and then grade the essay myself only if the two TA scores differ by more than a few points.

Do you have a disability? I want you to succeed. Please find the "equal opportunity" heading below.

Do you have a university-excused absence letter? I treat university travel the same as other excusable absences such as illnesses, disabilities, personal and family emergencies, and so on. I have probably already built enough flexibility into this syllabus to accommodate your travel. Visit me if you have questions.

A freshman FAQ: Nearly all BYU faculty hold doctorates in their fields. (Most exceptions you will encounter are instructors in 100-level dance/PE classes and the freshman writing program.) Unless directed otherwise, address faculty as Professor or Doctor So-and-So. ("Doctrine" means "that which is taught," and "doctor" meant "one who teaches" or "learned one" until physicians later coopted the title.) Some students belittle my female colleagues without realizing it by calling them "Sister" while calling men "Professor" or "Doctor"; don't.

Special provisions for online learning in a pandemic

Let's not pretend things are normal. They are not. Some of you are barely holding together, and sometimes I am too. Try to stay ahead so that unforeseen circumstances do not cause you to miss a deadline, but reach out to me if unforeseen events do interfere with school so we can discuss appropriate accommodations.

I will pre-record all lectures for you to view at your convenience. I recorded many for summer term 2020 and will update those that need updating. Regular low-stakes quizzes will help you avoid falling behind.

You will use two websites. (1) This website contains the syllabus and reading schedule. Please play with the various links and menus to familiarize yourself with the resources available. In normal times, you would complete exams and quizzes in person, but since times are not normal: (2) Submit exams, quizzes, and essays using Learning Suite.

TAs and I will hold office hours and other review opportunities using Zoom. We will use the waiting room feature for one-on-one office hours but not for group reviews. To avoid Zoom bombing, Zoom links are available only through Learning Suite (find the oldest announcement). Because students have diverse living situations I do not necessarily require turning your camera on, but I greatly appreciate it, since it is very hard to talk to a blank screen. You can always use a virtual background if you wish to hide your environment.

Most BYU students are honest. However, I do not want concerns about cheating to cause anyone to feel their honesty may place them at a disadvantage. Normally, I adminster closed-book exams in the Testing Center. I have made the following adaptations for online learning:

BYU has compiled tips for successful online learning. They may help you:

How to get help, and teaching assistants' role

Office hours and review session times appear at the very top of this syllabus.

Office hours provide drop-in opportunities for help, with no appointment needed. Both TAs and I hold office hours. See the schedule at the top of this page. Receive one-on-one help with papers, lecture review, test prep, and so on. If you need to meet with a specific person whose hours conflict with your schedule, email for an appointment. Due to current conditions, all office hours will be held online using Zoom.

Office hours are not limited to course-specific questions. I encourage first-generation students and students who feel they are scraping by on the margins at BYU to come visit me in office hours, even if all you want is to introduce yourself. We are on each other's team.

Review Q&A sessions: We will hold frequent review Q&A sessions. We open by briefly highlighting essential or confusing material, but we mostly take questions. Sessions adjourn when questions stop. Attendance is often low enough that these wind up as TA- or instructor-led study groups, a great format for improving comprehension. As requested, we can also discuss recent quiz questions.

Help with papers. Consider bringing an outline to office hours, since a good discussion early on will probably improve your argument more than asking me or a TA to read a complete draft. If you mostly want help with grammar or mechanics, visit the FHSS writing lab or the BYU writing center.

TA boundaries. It is inappropriate to ask a TA on a date or offer a gift before grades are posted. It is also inappropriate to offer a TA money for tutoring; their services are free to students in this course.

Difficulty, grade cutoffs, curving, and workload

Is this a weeder class? No. Weeders ensure only the "best" students enter a certain major. If your major requires "pre-major" courses, those are weeders. You can fail Poli 110 and still declare in political science.

Can non-majors succeed? Yes. Only 5-15% of Poli 110 students are majors, since most majors take Poli 210 instead. Majors who do take this course perform no better on average than non-majors, nor do seniors earn higher average scores than freshmen. In introductory GE courses, grades heavily reflect effort and dedication.

So grades are based on effort? No. But consider sage counsel from Thomas S. Monson: "Thinking is the hardest work anyone can do, which is probably the reason why we have so few thinkers.... What the public takes for brilliance is really the result of thorough, painstaking investigation and downright hard work." (In "Constant Truths," Pathways to Perfection.)

Do you curve? Uncurved cutoffs are 93.0+ A, 90.0+ A-, 87.0+ B+, 83.0+ B, etc., rounded to the 0.1 place. I never curve down. I curve up when needed by lowering cutoffs (not by adding points to your score) to ensure at least a quarter of students earn an A/A- and at least two-thirds earn a B- or better. Grades below C- are very rare for those who attend regularly and complete all assignments. This distribution resembles those found in other introductory social science courses. I curve before adding bonus assignments to your score, so that students who choose not to complete optional assignments face no penalty.

How much time should students spend on this class? At BYU, "The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (source). BYU defines an A as "excellent," a B as "good," and a C as "satisfactory." Thus, an "average student" (for BYU) who is "appropriately prepared" should plan on 9 hours per week to "satisfy" (B or C) course requirements, while "much more time may be required" to "achieve excellence" (an A). More generally, an average student enrolled for 15 credits should plan 45 hours for school each week to maintain a B or C average. Plan on more time out of class than in: A typical AP Government class uses 180 hours of in-person instruction (5 hours per week for 36 weeks) to cover less material than we will cover in roughly 42 lecture hours (3 hours per week for 14 weeks). College classes assume more work outside class than in.

Tips for success

Performing well requires (1) comprehending the material and (2) retaining what you have comprehended. Reexposure (reviewing notes, re-reading books, attending review sessions) boosts comprehension, but research demonstrates that retention requires different strategies.

Improving comprehension of lectures.

Improving comprehension of readings.

Improving retention. Retrieval aids retention more than reexposure does. Your study should include only enough reexposure to ensure comprehension; after that, emphasize retrieval as your study strategy. Retrieval means forcing yourself to try remembering something. Retrieval boosts learning even more when you retrieve regularly. Retrieving for 15 minutes three times a week is more effective than retrieving for 60 minutes once a week.

Improving your writing. Writing in the social sciences means defending a position. Debate papers must have (1) a central claim, clearly stated as you open and close; (2) logical arguments (reasons) supporting your claim; and (3) compelling evidence supporting each reason.

General suggestions

A matter of a few degrees. Consider a true story related by Dieter Uchtdorf:

In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus....

By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.

It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees....

Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways...

Though he had a different point, we can apply this story to school: Good scores don't go to those who never make mistakes, but to those who recognize when they go off course and take prompt corrective action. If an exam or paper early in the course comes back with a lower score than you hoped, then read and apply the tips listed above. Visit me or a TA for help. Don't wait for the volcano to fill your windshield.

Honesty and plagiarism

Writing submitted for credit must consist of your own ideas presented in your own language. When appropriate, you may include ideas from others if clearly identified by appropriate introduction ("According to...") or citation (footnoting or other standard referencing). Direct language must additionally appear in quotation marks. Take care while gathering material for your papers to track sources and to differentiate quotations you have jotted down from paraphrases you have written. I will notice cheating on exams or plagiarism on papers. Even unintentional plagiarism has serious consequences. Violations may result in a failing grade on an assignment or in the course; serious violations may result in action by the university. Details about Academic Honesty are found in the university catalog


Mental health, counseling, and stress management

Many lifelong mental illnesses emerge in adolescence and early adulthood. If you experience frequent sadness, worry, fear, inability to focus, nightmares, forgetfulness, or extreme mood changes; if you are withdrawing socially by avoiding friends and social activities; if you experience significant changes in sleeping habits or eating habits; if you are abusing alcohol, prescription medications, or other substances; or if you are thinking about hurting yourself, then please talk to somebody.

Mental health concerns, crime, family problems, and other stressful life events can affect students' academic performance and quality of life. BYU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS, 1500 WSC, 801-422-3035, provides confidential counseling and stress management services for free to full-time students. For immediate concerns visit

Marginalized groups

President Russell Nelson has taught, "The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God's children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent! During the Savior's earthly mission, He constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, judged, overlooked, abused, and discounted. As His followers, can we do anything less? The answer is no! We believe in freedom, kindness, and fairness for all of God's children!"

Elder Ballard has taught, "I want anyone who is a member of the Church, who is gay or lesbian, to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do. We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing." He has also taught, "We need to embrace God's children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. Let it be said that we truly believe the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God."

People may feel vulnerable or marginalized at BYU due to their race, disability, gender, orientation, religious views, age, and so on. Join me in creating a compassionate learning environment where we may learn openly from one another. Please visit with me if I may help you.

Accommodating disabilities

BYU is committed to providing a learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Whether an impairment is substantially limiting depends on its nature and severity, its duration or expected duration, and its permanent or expected permanent or long-term impact. Examples include vision or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, emotional disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety), learning disorders, and attention disorders (e.g. ADHD). If you have a disability which impairs your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (UAC), 2170 WSC or 801-422-2767 to request a reasonable accommodation. The UAC can also assess students for learning, attention, and emotional concerns. If you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, please contact the Equal Employment Office at 801-422-5895, D-285 ASB for help.

Going beyond the boilerplate language above: If you have a disability, including mental health issues or learning disabilities, please visit the University Accessibility Center to receive an accommodation letter. The letter UAC gives you will spare you from needing to explain yourself over and over to each of your instructors; it will also recommend to your instructors specific accommodations that ensure you have a fair opportunity to succeed. The letter will not disclose the disability and I will not ask. I will work with you to identify appropriate accommodations supported by the letter. If you wish to discuss accommodations, I am happy to schedule an appointment at any time, including outside office hours if needed. Even if you have not yet received a letter, please talk to me.

Title IX and sex discimination

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, BYU prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. Sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "sexual misconduct" prohibited by the university. University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of sexual misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment, class discussion, email, or social media post. (This means I am a mandatory reporter; are unsure what that means, please ask.) Incidents of sexual misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at, 801-422-8692, or (24 hours) 1-888-238-1062. BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by sexual misconduct, including the university's Victim Advocate. Find further information at

Reading schedule

Dates and deadlines are subject to change. You can also view the reading schedule in calendar format.