Letter from the Chair
By Graham Wilson
In common with the rest of the country, the department was riveted by a close, keenly contested presidential election this fall. Of course, not everyone on
the faculty studies American politics, and not all who do specialize in elections. However, such a major event entered into discussions as varied as
political theory, comparative politics, and international relations, as well as the more obvious courses. This was an event our students wanted to discuss.
What’s the role of faculty during an exciting event like this?
First, we incorporated examples from the campaign and election into our courses. Indeed, our colleague, Dean of the College and political science professor
Virginia Sapiro, even taught a special class, an Election Campaign Practicum that required students to volunteer on a campaign of their choice as well as
reading academic studies. Students worked for both Democrats and Republicans and brought their experiences into the classroom. Dean Sapiro insisted that
students in the course learn how to discuss politics civilly with those with whom they passionately disagree.
Second, we made our academic expertise available to a wider audience. As many of you know, this included our faculty speaking at several BU alumni events.
In September, professors Crawford, Einstein, Kriner, and Wilson spoke at the Alumni Weekend on the challenges, at home and abroad, that awaited the winner
of the presidential election once the campaign was over. It also involved giving interviews and briefings to journalists from the U.S. and around the
world. Andrew Reeves was in great demand shortly before the vote because of his work on the political consequences of natural disasters, like the storm
that pounded the East Coast. Briefings and interviews for overseas journalists included Agence France Presse, German television, Vietnamese journalists,
and the UK’s Sky TV. You can sample some of the thoughts of our faculty on the past campaign in this newsletter.
Third, we took examples from the debates and campaign to encourage students to reflect on their political beliefs and attitudes. Campaign issues about what
is—and what is not—the appropriate role of government in this and other nations, the balance between liberty and equality in regulating campaign
contributions, and the appropriate role of government in regulating personal relationships brought to life issues that we always wish to cover.
What we did not do was to tell our students whom to support or how to vote. Maintaining the balance between encouraging critical thinking and
avoiding partisan advocacy is a major and stimulating professional challenge for all professors, but it is particularly vital for political science faculty
to maintain this distinction.
The department continues to gain in strength. This semester, we welcomed Professor Katherine Einstein, interviewed here. Our Honors program is flourishing under the leadership of Professor Christenson. He has
also achieved the rare feat for a social scientist of being named a Junior Fellow in the Hariri Center for Computing and Computational Science &
Engineering here at BU. Professor Kriner achieved tenure with one of the strongest cases I have ever seen, including excellence in teaching and service to
students as well as in research. We continue to improve the physical condition of the department and are working to help our undergraduates make informed
course choices by a variety of means, including re-numbering all our courses.
I am profoundly conscious of the crucial difference made by alumni contributions to the department. You will have heard from the University about its capital
campaign, the first in BU’s history. I urge you to support it. However, any contribution to the department through the annual fund also makes a major
difference to the quality of the experience we can give our undergraduates. We are eager to engage with our alumni in more ways than asking for financial
support, however. You will have received an email from me asking if you are willing to advise and assist our current majors as they prepare to transition
from college to the outside world. I want to thank the numerous people who have offered to help in this way; we will be back in contact soon. Your replies
gave us welcome insights into how you have used your BU education in the time since you graduated. Keep these stories coming; we love to hear of your
Political Science and Advertising in 2012
By Dino Christenson
Among a host of unprecedented features, the 2012 election will be studied to understand the impact of unlimited fundraising by outside groups (Super PACs),
not least of which will be their expenditures on campaign advertisements.
Modeling Election Results
By Douglas Kriner
Perusing the morning newspapers on November 7, I found no shortage of explanations for President Obama’s reelection victory. In 2011, the Obama campaign
aired a significant number of ads during 2 Broke Girls—what else could explain the president’s success among young women voters?
Introducing Katherine Levine Einstein
Megan Winderbaum sat down with our newest faculty member, Katherine Levine Einstein, to get a feeling for how she got interested in politics, what kind
of work she is currently doing, and what she, Tina Fey, Joe Biden, and David Mitchell would talk about at dinner.
Keeping the Supreme Court Out of the Election
By David Glick
Throughout the fall, the Supreme Court was conspicuously absent from the campaign. It did not come up in the three presidential debates and was rarely
mentioned in press coverage of the campaigns.
A Global Perspective on 2012
By Taylor Boas,
November 7, 2012
Citizens and the media of foreign countries often pay close attention to American campaigns and elections—much closer, unfortunately, than we typically do
to theirs. How are they likely to have viewed this year’s presidential contest? Here, I offer a few thoughts on how the recent electoral process might be
seen through the lens of comparative politics.