Public Administration (PADM) 5505 - 001
Intergovernmental Relations
Fall Semester, 2001
Stockton Campus

Course organization

This is an elective course in the MPA curriculum. As such, it is assumed that students have enrolled in the course because they are interested in the material being covered, not because they are obliged to take it as part of an MPA requirement.

Course content and objectives

Traditionally, the field of intergovernmental relations in the United States has focused on federalism, or the relationship between the federal government and the states. The relationship was identified in the Constitution and spelled out in Federalist Paper 39, among others. More recently, however, interest in state and local relations has grown. This is in part the result of interest since the 1980s to devolve federal responsibilities to the states, including programs funded by the federal government but implemented by localities. In the 1990s, global forces began to play an increasingly important role in the domestic affairs of nation-states. More recently, these agencies have begun to be added to list of intergovernmental actors.

This course will attempt to examine intergovernmental relations from all of these perspectives—involving governmental agencies at the local, state, federal, and international levels. At the same time, it will attempt to examine the way in which changes in intergovernmental relations have taken place. Several forces have been at work: Constitutions have set the broad parameters for intergovernmental relations, but legislatures have modified these relationships, either directly through positive legislation or indirectly through funding. Legislation, in turn, has been influenced by the regulatory activities of executive agencies and litigation by the courts. All of these forces will be discussed at some length during the weeks that follow. Finally, at the end of the semester, recent changes in globalization and their effect on the relationships among government units will be considered.

Students will follow this progression through assigned readings, which will be discussed in class, and through their own investigation of a policy issue facing public administrators. Each student will be expected to identify a topic early in the semester and to prepare briefing papers for discussion with the class at regular intervals. The briefing papers will serve as building blocks for the final paper and presentation, which will constitute a substantial component of the student’s grade in the course.

Students will be expected to apply the lessons from class readings to their specific topic. In class, we will consider not only the implications of the various scholars’ arguments for intergovernmental relations, in general, and public administration, in particular, but for conducting research in the area as well. Acquiring a familiarity with research tools will be an important part of the student’s learning and will be demonstrated through their use of these tools in the final paper. Students will be expected to specify their research strategies in the periodic briefing papers as well as to discuss their findings.

Course format

The course will be part lecture, part discussion. Students will be expected to take an active role in class meetings by staying current with reading assignments, participating in class discussions, and leading the class on occasion.

Class attendance is expected.

Occasionally people will become ill or working students will miss class for professional reasons. When this occurs, students are expected to inform the instructor of their inability to attend class in advance, but at least before class begins either by leaving a message in the department office or by contacting the professor directly. Regardless of the reason, students who miss class will be expected to prepare summaries of any readings assigned for that day. Students who miss more than one class without permission of the instructor will have their final grade lowered 5 points for each additional session missed. Moreover, the instructor reserves the right to drop students who miss three or more classes (with or without permission) from the course.

Assignments and grading

Class participation (15%)
All students are expected to have completed the readings for class and to participate in class discussions.

Briefings (15% each or 45%)
Each student will be expected to make periodic presentations to the class on progress in their research. The briefings will consist of two parts: an oral presentation and a paper submitted to the professor. The paper will, at a minimum, address questions given to students in advance. Some of these questions will help direct students in their research; others will help ensure that students are keeping up with the readings and applying lessons from the texts to their own work. Briefing papers should be approximately 5 pages in length.

Final Presentation and Paper (40%)
As noted above, each student will be expected to identify a public policy issue involving more than two governmental units that they would like to explore in some detail. Areas that would lend themselves to this investigation are: transportation, public health and welfare, public safety, and the environment. Student findings will be presented in two forms: an oral presentation to the class, to take approximately 30-45 minutes, and a written paper, approximately 15-20 pages in length.

In preparing a final report, you will be expected to integrate information from all parts of the course. This may include adapting solutions used elsewhere in the country, analyzing local situations in light of more general principles of governance, or otherwise demonstrating that you have developed a firm grasp of both the general problems of local government administration as well as the particular aspects of the issue you are investigating.

Student presentations are scheduled for the last week (or two) of class. You are expected to apprise me of your general topic by September 24. To ensure that you are making progress on your paper and do not leave all of the work until the end of the semester, you will also be expected to submit a draft of your paper by November 28. Students who would like an opportunity to revise their papers in order to improve their paper grade may submit their papers earlier than scheduled. All papers must be submitted by December 17—the date set aside for the final exam.

Intellectual honesty is central to any academic endeavor. However, in graduate work it is especially important—both for the student and the profession in which he or she is engaged. It is important for students to grapple honestly with the material so that they may find their place within the profession. Developing careful habits of independent thinking as well as attribution of ideas is vital to the intellectual endeavor.

Occasionally students will assume that an idea they have encountered in their readings or class is "common knowledge" in the way that we comment on the weather or the latest popular theory about the economy. But it is a mistake to equate graduate study with popular culture—even when the latest trends are making an impact on professional activities. What sense we make of this interaction, how we approach new trends, what analyses we construct, are all products of creativity and scholars’ livelihoods depend on recognition of their contributions to this collective understanding. As such, attribution of ideas is an essential part of the scholarly enterprise.

Intellectual honesty is equally important for the profession, which develops and evolves only through the work of its participants. The classroom, then, provides valuable space for the open exchange of ideas and the nurturing of habits that promote and sustain intellectual honesty. The assigned texts provide good examples of how academics analyze concepts and positions at the same time that they give others credit for introducing the idea into the collective professional consciousness.