Bureaucracy and the Public Policy Process

POLS 330 – Spring 2007


I.  Introduction                                                                                                                                  

In order to adequately evaluate the American political environment, as a political scientist one must take on the challenge of understanding bureaucracy.  In this course we will examine a number of questions surrounding public bureaucracies, including:  What is the origin of the American bureaucratic system?  How has it progressed and evolved into its current form?  Has bureaucracy been corrupted by the advancement of “technical rationality” and, if so, should bureaucracy be considered inherently evil?  Why are bureaucrats reviled in some instances and revered in others?  How can or should unelected government officials be made more accountable to their elected counterparts and to the citizens they serve?  Do unelected government officials ‘make policy’ and, if so, what is the policy process?  Is it accurate, or even fair, to carve out public bureaucracy as the “fourth branch of government”? 


In addressing these and many other questions, we will rely on the blending of classic and contemporary public administration theory.  Also, we will discuss real-life cases in several areas of public policy, including homeland security, education, the environment, law enforcement, and social welfare.


II.  Contact and Meeting Information                                                                                                           


Trent J. Davis

Office: DuSable 476

Phone: (815) 753-1818

E-mail: tdavis2@niu.edu

Office Hours: T/Th 11:00 to 12:30pm, or by appointment


Class meetings

T/Th 12:30 to 1:45pm, DuSable 246


III.  Required Course Materials                                                                                                                     

The following textbooks are required for this course:





IV.  Course Assignments and Grading Policy                                                                                                                                      

This section provides an outline of the assignments/exams required for this course and the point value each exercise will carry.  In addition, an overview of each assignment/exam has been provided below.




The following grading scale will be utilized:

Take-Home Assignments


324 - 360


UAE: Policy Research Paper


288 - 323


Midterm Exam


252 - 287


Cumulative Final Exam


216 - 251





Below 216



Take-Home Assignments

Over the course of the semester, there will be three take home assignments.  These assignments will be worth 20 points each (60 pts. total).  Responses must be typed and turned in during class on the day in which they are due (i.e., late assignments will not be accepted for any reason).  See the “weekly class schedule” for assignment and corresponding due dates.


Unmasking Administrative Evil (UAE): Policy Research Paper

Using Unmasking Administrative Evil as a theoretical foundation, students will be required to develop a policy research paper that either supports or refutes the key themes found in the text.  Note: A more detailed set of requirements and expectations for the policy research paper will be handed out during the third week of the semester.


Students are required to submit a one-page paper proposal outlining (1) the specific public policy or program to be addressed (2) why you are interested in examining that particular issue and (3) how it relates to the key themes found in UAE no later than February 22.  The final paper is due in-class on (or before) April 17.   Late papers will not be accepted under any circumstances – do not ask.   


It is strongly recommended that each student take his or her paper to the University’s Writing Center. While much of your grade will be based on the substance of your work, quality of grammar and style should by no means be overlooked.  Visiting the Writing Center is not mandatory; however, students who choose to take advantage of this resource (minimum 30-minute session) will receive an automatic 5-point increase on their policy research paper grade (staple proof of session to your paper).  The Writing Center is located in Stevenson Towers South, Lower Level.  For more information or to make an appointment call 753-6636.   


Midterm and Final Examinations

There will be a closed-book/note midterm and final examination.  Both exams will consist of any combination of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions.  The specific format, however, will be announced in advance.  The midterm exam is scheduled for March 8 and the final exam is scheduled for May 3.  The format for the final exam will differ from the midterm in that it will be cumulative in nature; however, material covered during the second half of the semester will be emphasized.  Make-up examinations will not be given under any circumstances.


V.  Attendance and Participation                                                                                          

Students are strongly encouraged to attend all classes and frequently participate in class discussion.

It is also expected that students will arrive to class on time and remain for the duration of the class period (unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor).


Class attendance will be taken on a regular basis and will be used primarily for administrative purposes.  However, students who maintain a perfect attendance record will receive 10 extra credit points added on to their final grade.  Only students arriving on time and remaining for the duration of the class period are eligible.


VI.  Extra Credit                                                                                           

Individual opportunities for extra credit, beyond those listed in the syllabus, are not available.  Similar to make-up exams, such opportunities raise serious questions of equity.  


VII.  Undergraduate Writing Awards                                                                       

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300 and 400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing; however, winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


IIX.  Academic Integrity and Rules of Decorum                                                                               

Honesty is the essence of the intellectual life of the University.  Students who copy the work of another on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination are guilty of cheating.  The misrepresentation of another's work as your own, copying material from books, magazines, or other resources without acknowledgement and identification of those sources is plagiarism.  If a student is guilty of either cheating or plagiarizing, or of assisting other students in cheating or plagiarizing on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination, the student may receive a grade of “F” for the course and be suspended or dismissed from the University.  Please consult the University’s website, the Student Judicial Code, or speak to the course instructor if you have further questions concerning this policy.


In addition to the University’s Rules of Decorum, there are a few additional policies that each student should observe.


- Always demonstrate courtesy and respect toward all others in class.  This includes respecting the opinions of others and refraining from talking while they are speaking.


- Make every effort to come to class on time and be prepared.  Habitual tardiness will not be tolerated, as it is an unfair disruption to all others in the class. 


- If you must leave the class early, please let me know before class begins.  Leaving and then returning to class, unless for a valid and necessary reason, will not be tolerated.  


- Turn off all electronic devices (i.e., cell phones, pagers, PDAs) prior to entering class.


- While the class is in progress do not read newspapers or books for another class.  Moreover, do not engage in side conversations with other students in the class.


- During an exam, there are to be no electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones, pagers, and PDAs, left on or visible to you or I.  If for any reason you are caught with an electronic device during an exam, you will receive an automatic “F” on the exam and be turned in to the University for academic misconduct.


- During an exam, all backpacks, briefcases, purses, and etcetera are to be closed and stored under your seat.  If for any reason during the exam you must access one of these items, raise your hand and let me know prior to doing so. 


IX.  Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities                                                                       

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework, and for which they may require accommodations, should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


X.  Department of Political Science Website                                                                         

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.


XI.  Weekly Class Schedule                                                                                                                

Week 1:  Class Introduction and Perceptions of Bureaucracy

Tuesday, January 16

- Course Introduction

- Overview of the Blackboard Course Server


Thursday, January 18

- Debunking common myths and realities about bureaucracy?

- Size of the American bureaucracy and the “shadow government”

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 1

- Assignment I: Perceptions of Bureaucracy (Due January 23)


Week 2: Functions and Tools of Government 

Tuesday, January 23

- Bureaucratic myths and realities, continued

- Assignment I due


Thursday, January 25

- Understanding the functions and tools of government

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 2


Week 3: Rise of the Administrative State

Tuesday, January 30

- Policy Research Paper: requirements handout and discussion

- Begin overview of the American Administrative State


Thursday, February 1

- Conclude discussion on the American Administrative State

- American Bureaucracy formally defined


Week 4: Politics-Administration Dichotomy

Tuesday, February 6

- What is the Politics-Administration Dichotomy?  Why does it matter?

- Read:  Wilson, W. (1887), “The Study of Administration” pgs. 197-222 [on-line] and
Goodnow, F. (1900), “Politics and Administration: A Study of government” pgs. 1-22 [on-line]
and Svara, J. (1985), “Dichotomy and Duality:  Reconceptualizing the Relationship between Policy and Administration in Council-Manager Cities” pgs. 221-232 [on-line]


Thursday, February 8

- The Revisionist Debate

- Read: Martin, D. (1988), “The Fading Legacy of Woodrow Wilson” pgs. 631-636 [on-line]

- Assignment II: Politics-Administration Dichotomy Q & A (Due February 13)


Week 5: Traditional Administrative Theory

Tuesday, February 13

- Four aspects of traditional administrative theory: An overview

- Assignment II due


Thursday, February 15

- Conclude discussion on traditional administrative theory


Week 6: The Policy Process

Tuesday, February 20

- Overview of the policy process


Thursday, February 22

- Conclude discussion on the policy process

- Last day to submit paper proposal


Week 7: Policy Typologies

Tuesday, February 27

- Regulatory, Redistributive, Distributive, and Constituent Policy

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 12


Thursday, March 1

- Conclude discussion on policy typologies


Week 8: Midterm Examination

Tuesday, March 6

- First half course wrap-up

- Midterm examination Q & A


Thursday, March 8

- Midterm Examination


Week 9: Spring Break

Tuesday, March 13

- Spring Break – No Class


Thursday, March 15

- Spring Break – No Class


Week 10: Decisionmaking Models

Tuesday, March 20

- Overview of most prominent models of decisionmaking

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (first half)


Thursday, March 22

- Overview of most prominent models of decisionmaking, continued

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (second half)


Week 11: Public Choice Theory

Tuesday, March 27

- Guest speaker:  Overview of public choice theory

- Review: Kettl and Fesler, pgs. 247-251


Thursday, March 29

- Reading Day – No Class


Week 12: Unmasking Administrative Evil

Tuesday, April 3

- Introduction to Unmasking Administrative Evil

- Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 1 and 2


Thursday, April 5

- Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

- Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 3, 4, and 5


Week 13: Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

Tuesday, April 10

- Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

- The ethics of public administration

- Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 6 and 7


Thursday, April 12

- Debating and critiquing Unmasking Administrative Evil

- Read: Dubnick, M. (2000), “The Case for Administrative Evil: A critique” pgs. 464-474 [on-line] and Vickers, M. (2000), “A New Concept” pgs. 474-478 [on-line] and Locke, H. (2000), “Unmasking Administrative Evil: The book and its critics” [on-line].


Week 14: Controlling the Bureaucracy

Tuesday, April 17

- Internal and external controls

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 13 and pgs. 394 – 406

- Policy Research Paper due


Thursday, April 19

- Internal and external controls, continued

- Is it possible to effectively control the bureaucracy?

- Assignment III: Bureaucracy and the media (Due April 24)


Week 15: Reforming the Bureaucracy

Tuesday, April 24

- Bureaucracy and the media

- Assignment III due


Thursday, April 26

- Why is reform so difficult?  Is reform necessary?

- Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapters 4 and 6


Week 16: Reforming the Bureaucracy

Tuesday, May 1

- Second half course wrap-up

- Final examination Q & A


Thursday, May 3

- Final Examination


Important Dates

- January 23 – Assignment I due

- January 30 – Policy Research Paper: requirements handout and discussion

- February 13 – Assignment II due

- February 22 – Last day to submit paper proposal

- March 8 – Midterm Examination

- April 17 – Policy Research Paper due

- April 24 – Assignment III due

- May 3 – Final Examination


Please note:  The instructor reserves the right to change the course schedule/requirements as necessary.