PLSC 270 – Public Administration

PLSC 270 – Public Administration
Political Science Department, College of Arts & Sciences
Eastern Michigan University
Winter 2015
Dr. Gregory K. Plagens
601J Pray-Harrold
(734) 487-2522
Class Time: 2 to 3:15 p.m., Tues. & Thur.
Science Complex 173
Office Hours: 5 to 6 p.m., Tuesdays (Livonia Center)
10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays (Main Campus)
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays (Main Campus)
and by appointment
Course Description and Objectives
Public administration is described by the authors of your textbook as “what government does.”
Government does a lot in the United States these days, more than most citizens realize. Some
citizens and politicians argue that government should play a smaller role in our lives and spend
less money. There is nothing inherently wrong with these positions, but what exactly should
government do less of or stop doing altogether? General calls for limited government are
plentiful; specific prescriptions for limiting or shrinking government emerge less frequently.
Regardless of your position on the size of government in America (if you even have a position),
there is value in understanding some basic ideas about how government actually executes or
administers the laws that have been adopted. The bureaucracy, which is to say the
administrative apparatus of our government systems, wields considerable influence over our
lives, so much so that it has been referred to by some as the fourth branch of the government
(alongside the executive, legislative and judicial branches) at the national level. Much of what
we will study together this semester also pertains to state and local governments (including
special purpose and education districts).
There are two practical reasons to learn about public administration. First, close to 22 million
people in America work for local, state or federal government organizations, and this number
does not include the number of people who work for nonprofit organizations that are in-part
funded by government. Second, throughout your life you will encounter public administrators
or the effects of their decisions. Understanding something about the profession may lead you to
a meaningful career or it may help you in your interactions with public administrators from the
local school district or from the city, county, regional, state or national government. Students
who are interested in learning more about jobs in the field may find the following U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics website helpful:
Welcome to the course. I look forward to introducing you to a field that has played an
important role in my life.
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Course Resources
 Shafritz, Jay M., E.W. Russell and Christopher P. Borick. 2013. Introducing Public
Administration, 8th Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson.
 Additional readings will be posted in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format in the e-College course
shell that has been created for the course. You will find the website here: If you have not registered for an account, please do so
promptly. Technical support information is also available at the link above.
Course Objectives
Students will learn the following:
 to identify subfields of public administration and some of the basic functions of
professionals in those subfields;
 to think about the political context in which public administrators work;
 to identify major efforts to reform administrative organizations in government;
 to identify how governments, nonprofit organizations and private entities collaborate to
provide public programming;
 to identify the challenges of serving in managerial roles;
 to identify the challenges of finding and developing human capital;
 to consider the ethical challenges that public administrators face;
 to consider the challenges that emerge when individuals join organizations and attempt
to work cooperatively toward some desire outcome;
 to understand the role of data collection and measurement in public organizations.
Course Activities to Meet Objectives:
I have organized readings, discussion and lecture materials, in-class case studies (with
accompanying short writing assignments) and exams to guide you toward the objectives stated
above. You are expected to read assigned material prior to the class when it will be covered. This helps
facilitate discussion and give you some context in which to consider my next lecture. In the
event that I fall behind on material, you should continue reading as assigned. Reading before
and after the lecture will provide you with a deeper understanding of the material. Students are
encouraged to read strategically and with time constraints in mind. I’ll explain what I mean by
this in class.
Course discussions and lectures have been designed to simplify and illustrate ideas covered in
the readings. The activities of reading, listening and speaking are purposefully coordinated to
help you internalize the ideas being presented. Students who skip readings and count on me for
the highlights are less likely to learn the material. Students who skip class and rely on the
readings will miss elaboration, discussion and examples that will be useful to demonstrating
competency through writing and exams. You are expected to read, attend and participate in class. If
you believe your personal circumstance warrants an exception to this expectation, you should
see me at the start of the semester to discuss your situation.
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I need to assess your progress toward the stated objectives of the course, and to do this I will
use short writing assignments (tied to the case studies on the syllabus) and in-class exams. All
students begin the course with a zero. I assume that you are entering with no knowledge of the
subject being covered. Your final grade will reflect your ability over the semester to
demonstrate understanding of the material presented. Students must work independently when
completing writing assignments and examinations. This does not mean that you cannot talk to a
classmate about a writing assignment before it is due. Talking about a subject with a friend or
family member can lead to deeper understanding. Talk all you like. When it comes to
completing each writing assignment, be sure that it is an original work created by you. The
exams will be independent work done in class. Both forms of assessment are explained in more
detail below.
The assessments for this course and their weights toward your final grade are detailed below:
1. Case Study 1 (10 percent)
 Assigned: Jan. 15
 Due: Jan. 22
2. Exam 1 (10 percent)
 Date: Feb. 3
3. Case Study 2 (15 percent)
 Assigned: Feb. 12
 Due: Feb. 19
4. Exam 2 (15 percent)
 Date: Mar 5
5. Case Study 3 (15 percent)
 Assigned: Mar. 19
 Due: Mar. 26
6. Exam 3 (15 percent)
 Date: Mar. 31
7. Exam 4 (15 percent)
 Date: Apr. 21
8. Best Grade (5 percent)
The case study writing assignments are an alternative means by which I will try to understand
how well you understand the material this semester. They are also a means by which I can
determine the extent to which you can apply what we are covering. Short writing assignment
instructions will be distributed the night the case study is discussed. To be clear about my
expectations for assessments, I offer the following:
 Exams are to be taken in-class the days they are offered, and case studies are to be
turned in at the start of class the night they are due. I reserve the right to deny make up
exams and to penalize or refuse papers that are late or turned in by e-mail. Any
exception to these expectations must be discussed with me in advance of the exam or
paper due date.
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Case Study Short Writing Assignments
Assignments will be discussed and distributed in class, as well as posted to the e-College
website in case you misplace your copy. You will be given at least one week to complete each
assignment. Short writing assignments will come with clear expectations for word count,
usually in the range of 500 to 700 words per assignment. You will be graded on the following
 How well you have followed the instructions provided, i.e. did you do the assignment as
 The quality of your exposition, i.e. proper word usage, sentence structure, clarity, etc.;
Exams are to be taken with books and notebooks closed and with phones, tablets and
computers off. Despite the seemingly unnatural state of this environment, I believe it to be
necessary for assessing your understanding of the material. Exams will be graded on a numeric
scale from zero to 100. More details about the content and format of the exams will be shared
closer to the date, but essentially they will be multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank and
short answer questions derived from readings, lecture and discussions, and case study material.
The following process for the final exam will be observed, as outlined in the undergraduate
 You are to take the examination with the class and at the hour indicated on the
examination schedule. Failure to take the examination at the scheduled time will result
in a grade of F on the exam, except when the requisite conditions for granting an
incomplete are present or one of the following conditions applies and a suitable
alternative is agreed to in advance:
o If you find that you have three examinations scheduled on one day, you may
request the instructor of the class having the first examination of the day to
arrange to offer the examination at another time. If you find that you have four
examinations scheduled for one day, you may request the instructors of the first
two examinations to make arrangements so that no more than two are scheduled
in one day. You may appeal to the head of the department in which the course is
offered if a satisfactory solution is not reached;
o If for religious reasons you are not able to follow the examination schedule you
should make special arrangements with me. If arrangements are not satisfactory,
you may appeal to the head of the department in which the course is offered;
o Any deviation from the examination schedule, other than to limit the exams to
two in one day or to observe religious mandates, must be approved in advance
by me (and possibly the department head) and will be granted only in cases of
extreme emergency.
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Grading Scale and Numeric Conversions
Grades for the writing assignments will be on a letter scale. The letter equivalencies and
corresponding numeric conversion for use in calculating final grades are as follows:
 A Exceptionally High Order 97/100
 A92/100
 B+
 B Distinctly Above Average 85/100
 B82/100
 C+
 C Average 75/100
 C72/100
 D+
 D Below Average 65/100
 D62/100
 F Unsatisfactory 55/100
Grades for the in-class exam are on a numeric scale ranging from zero to 100. Missed exams or
writing assignments result in a grade of zero.
Overall course grades are determined based on the following scale:
 A Exceptionally High Order 93+
 A90-92
 B+
 B Distinctly Above Average 83-87
 B80-82
 C+
 C Average 73-75
 C70-72
 D+
 D Below Average 63-65
 D60-62
 F Unsatisfactory Below 60
Students who track their performance throughout the semester and wish to compute various
possible final outcomes will find the following formula for Microsoft Excel helpful:
 =( CS1 * 0.1) + (Exam1 * 0.1) + (CS2 * 0.15) + (Exam2 * 0.15) + (CS3 * 0.15) + (Exam3 * 0.15)
+ (Exam4 * .015) + (BestScore * .05)
University Services to Assist You in Learning
Disability Resource Center
It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students,
including those with disabilities that may impact learning in this class. Students who believe
they may have trouble participating or effectively demonstrating learning in this course should
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meet with me (with or without a Disability Resource Center (DRC) accommodation letter) to
discuss reasonable options or adjustments. During our discussion I may suggest you contact the
DRC (240K Student Center; 734-487-2470; to talk about academic
accommodations and the need for an accommodation letter. You are welcome to talk to me
anytime during the semester about such issues, but it is always best if we can talk at least one
week prior to the need for any modifications so that I can plan accordingly.
University Writing Center
The University Writing Center (115 Halle Library; 487-0694) offers one-to-one writing
consulting for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can make appointments or
drop in between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m.
to 4 p.m. on Fridays. The UWC opens for the Winter 2015 semester on Monday, January 12 and
will close on Monday, April 20.
The UWC also has several satellite locations across campus (in Owen, Marshall, Pray-Harrold,
Sill, and Mark Jefferson). These satellites provide writing support to students in various colleges
and programs across campus. The Pray-Harrold satellite (rm. 211) is open Monday through
Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other satellite locations and hours can be found on the UWC web
The Academic Projects Center (116 Halle Library) also offers one-to-one writing consulting for
students, in addition to consulting on research and technology-related issues. The APC is open
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays for drop-in consultations. Additional
information about the APC can be found at
Students seeking writing support at any location of the University Writing Center should bring
with them a draft of what they are working on and their assignment sheet.
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Course Outline and Reading Schedule
Week One – Jan. 6 & 8
Topic: Review of Syllabus
Topic: Introduction to Major Ideas and Themes of the Course
Topic: Defining Public Administration
Required Reading
 Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 1, pgs. 1-13
Week Two – Jan. 13 & 15
Topic: Defining Public Administration
Topic: Case Study: Babcock Place and the Making of a “Simple” Crosswalk
Required Reading
 Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 1, pgs. 14-31
Fournier, Rob. 2013. “The Outsiders: How Can Millenials Change Washington If They
Hate It?” The Atlantic, Aug. 26.
Rein, Lisa. 2013. “Waive of Retirements Hitting Federal Workforce.” The Washington
Post, August 26.
Week Three – Jan. 20 & 22
Topic: The Political and Cultural Environment of Public Policy and Its Administration
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 2
Michigan Department of Treasury. 2013. “How a Financial Emergency Works: A
Summary of the Local Fiscal Stability and Choice Act Process.” Accessed August 29.,1607,7-121-1751_51556-198770--,00.html.
Holeywell, Ryan. 2012. “Last Best Hope.” Governing. May, 34-40.
Week Four – Jan. 27 & 29
Topic: The Continuous Reinventing of the Machinery of Government
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 3
Raskin, David. 2012. “Home Improvement.” Governing. May, 54-58.
Walters, Jonathan. 2012. “Holding the Safety Net.” Governing. August, 40-44.
Week Five – Feb. 3 & 5
Topic: Exam 1 (Feb. 3)
Topic: Intergovernmental Relations
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 4
Scott, Dylan. 2012. “Over-the-Counter Culture.” Governing. August, 24-30.
Southall, Ashley, and Jack Healy. 2013. “U.S. Won’t Sue to Reverse States’ Legalization
of Marijuana.” The New York Times, August 30.
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Course Outline and Reading Schedule (continued)
Week Six – Feb. 10 & 12
Topic: Honor, Ethics, and Accountability
Topic: Case Study in Accountability and Ethics
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 5
Romzek, Barbara S., and Melvin J. Dubnick. 1987. “Accountability in the Public Sector:
Lessons from the Challenger Tragedy.” Public Administration Review 47(3): 227-238.
Miller, Geralyn M. 2004. “Public Scrutiny and Accountability: An Ethical Dilemma in
State Administration.” In Public Administration: Cases in Managerial Role-Playing, edited
by Robert P. Watson, 110-113. New York: Longman.
Week Seven – Feb. 17 & 19
Topic: The Evolution of Management and Organization Theory
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 6
Boin, Arjen, and Paul Schulman. 2008. “Assessing NASA’s Safety Culture: The Limits
and Possibilities of High-Reliability Theory.” Public Administration Review 68(6):1050-62.
Week Eight – Winter Break – Feb. 24 & 26
No classes
Week Nine – Mar. 3 & 5
Topic: Organizational Behavior
Topic: Exam 2 (Mar. 5)
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 7
Maylett, Tracy M. and Julie Nielsen. 2013. “Halting the Engagement Exodus.” The Public
Manager. Accessed January 3.
Week Ten – Mar. 10 & 12
Topic: Organizational Behavior (continued)
Topic: Managerialism and Information Technology
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 8
Barrett, Katherine and Richard Greene. 2012. “Bottleneck Basics: Efficiency Comes from
Finding and Fixing the Spot that’s Gumming Up the Works.” Governing. February, 58-9.
Towns, Steve. 2012. “A Tale of Two Cities: Is Cloud Security in the Eye of the Beholder?”
Governing. February, 60.
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Course Outline and Reading Schedule (continued)
Week Eleven – Mar. 17 & 19
Topic: Strategic Management and Government Regulation
Topic: Case Study in Evaluating Alternatives
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 9
Feuer, Alan. 2013. “The Mayor’s Geek Squad.” The New York Times, March 23.
Suzuki, Peter T. 2002. “Stranger in a Strange Land: A Non-Indian Administrator
Working on an Indian Reservation.” In Public Administration: Cases in Managerial RolePlaying, edited by Robert P. Watson, 39-42. New York: Longman.
Week Twelve – Mar. 24 & 26
Topic: Leadership
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 10
Bryant, Adam. 2012. “Where Ideas are Always on the Wall.” The New York Times,
January 7.
Bryant, Adam. 2011. “To Stay Great, Never Forget Your Basics.” The New York Times,
December 17.
Week Thirteen – Mar. 31 & Apr. 2
Topic: Exam 3 (Mar. 31)
Topic: Personnel Management and Labor Relations
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 11
Kerrigan, Heather. 2012. “Off the Clock: 9-5 Is so 2011.” Governing. April, 47-49.
Week Fourteen – April 7 & 9
Topic: Personnel Management and Labor Relations (continued)
Topic: Social Equity
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 12
Maciag, Mike. 2013. “Work Happy: Despite Recent Hardships, Some Agencies Are
Becoming Better Workplaces.” Governing. August, 52-55.
Holeywell, Ryan. 2013. “Detroit Strong: The Would-Be Saviors of the Motor City.”
Governing. June, 28-39.
Reinke, Saundra. 2002. “Picking Up the Pieces: Grievances in the Hiring Process.” In
Public Administration: Cases in Managerial Role-Playing, edited by Robert P. Watson, 60-62.
New York: Longman.
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Course Outline and Reading Schedule (continued)
Week Fifteen – Apr. 14 & 16
Topic: Public Financial Management
Required Reading
Shafritz, Russell & Borick, Ch. 13
Governing. 2012. “Bankruptcy in Anytown, USA.” May, 11.
Petersen, John E. 2012. “The Other Stockton Story: The City’s Fiscal Tale of Woe May Set
Precedents in How Debts Are Resolved.” Governing. May, 66.
Maciag, Mike. 2013. “Local Bridges in Bad Shape.” Governing. August, 56-57.
Walsh, Mary Williams. 2013. “Detroit Gap Reveals Industry Dispute on Pension Math.”
The New York Times, July 20.
Exam Week – Apr. 21 to 27
Topic: Exam 4
1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Apr. 21 (same room as all meetings this semester)