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Boston University Arts & Sciences

PoliSci News
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 successes!

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Keep Us in the Loop

Let us know about news or upcoming events. Please send news items to megmay@bu.edu, or call Megan Maynard Winderbaum at 617-353-2540.

Boston University

Boston University
Political Science
232 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215