Introduction to Public Policy

Class meets August 30-October 18.

The Bridging Disciplines Program in Public Policy has two goals: to introduce you to a substantive arena of policy, and to familiarize you with the policy-making process.  Underlying these goals is an attitude toward the sources of change in a society, which is this: major transformations do not always begin with powerful leaders or large institutions; often, they begin with a scientific discovery or an act of protest.  In other words, talented, persistent and courageous citizens can make a difference.

The Fall 2016 Introduction will focus on three of the 20th century’s most transformative policies: the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act.  Our journey through Civil Rights, Immigration, and Voting Rights (CIV, for short), will begin in the 1950s.  That was when a black woman’s refusal to yield her bus seat gave rise to the modern civil rights movement.  That also was when Congress eliminated racial restrictions on naturalized citizenship, and when the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ “whites-only” primary scheme.  We then will move on to discuss the passage and implementation of new laws and the push-back against transformation.  Toward the end of the course, we will look at current controversies over immigration reform, voting rights and equal opportunity, and at emerging issues. 


Beginnings: A white man’s country?
Winds of change: a long border, a global conflict, and a bus boycott.
The modern civil rights movement: grass-roots activism and the new medium of television.
Eyes on the Prize: a new policy regime.
Implementation and pushback: bureaucratizing a moral victory, and realigning the parties.
Current controversies: immigration reform, voting rights, and the fallacy of fairness.
New horizons: demographic change, homeland security, and new conceptions of race, gender, and disability.


We will rely heavily on primary sources: the Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, and statements by activists and elected officials.  Secondary sources include:

Taylor Branch, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013)
Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver, and Traci Burch, Creating A New Racial Order, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012)
Ian Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race,  (New York: NYU Press, 2006)
Daniel Tichenor, Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002)


Introduction to Public Policy will feature professors from several UT colleges and schools: Law, Liberal Arts, Communications, Education, and Public Affairs.  The course will be organized as a seminar, with extensive discussion.  Assignments will include briefings, papers, and at least one examination. 

The class will be limited to 20 students. 

CONTACT: Edwin Dorn, 512-232-4007,