Fall 2010

Monday & Wednesday 12-1:15pm

208 Davis Hall


Prof. Paul Lachelier

Office Hours:  MW, 2-3:45pm, and by appt.

Office: 822-7247, 215 Davis Hall / Cell: 617-905-5353






Hunger, poverty, homelessness, terrorism, war, crime, global warming, political corruption.  It’s the stuff of daily news headlines, and it’s enough to make most people feel powerless in the face of larger and seemingly intractable social forces.  How can any individual make a difference without lots of money or power?  Community Organizing for Social Change (COSC) is intended to help counter this sense of powerlessness.  COSC is for Stetson students interested in making social change, and gaining practical, resume-building experience by getting their hands dirty in the dynamic field of community organizing. 


There are two components to this course.  The first is the project you will be working on throughout this semester: a grassroots, non-partisan, student-centered, campus voter education and mobilization campaign focused on the November 2 election this year. 


The most recent elections in 2008 confirmed a longstanding problem: the youngest voters, age 18-24, vote at the lowest rates of any age group.  It was thought that Barack Obama inspired many young people to vote, yet half of Americans aged 18-24 (51%) didn't bother voting in 2008.  College students are hamstrung not only by their political youth, but by their college situation.  Many still consider their parents' hometown their voting place even though most will not return to live there upon graduation.  On election day (which always falls on a school day), many college students are too far from home to make it practical to vote, and often forget or do not bother requesting an absentee ballot.  In addition, young Americans tend to be foremost interested in presidential elections, and give relatively little attention to the vast majority of government elections, from those for U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to those for county, city and school board, despite these offices’ direct impact on students’ lives. 


These problems are difficult, but they are not impossible to overcome.  In fact, committed college students, faculty and administrators are in a good position to help reverse student disengagement on their own campuses because colleges and universities tend to have more tightly knit communities and the resources to educate and engage students.  This course thus takes on the challenge of demonstrating that we can do something about political disengagement among American youth.  We will organize especially to improve voter knowledge and turnout among Stetson juniors who responded to a survey before the start of the fall, and who will be surveyed again after the November 2 election to determine if any changes in knowledge and turnout occurred as a result of our organizing efforts.    


In the process of working on this student voter education and mobilization campaign, you will develop knowledge and experience in community organizing, including campaign planning, volunteer organizing, door-to-door canvassing, online organizing, media outreach, and more.  This is the second component of this course: learning how to become a more effective community organizer.  COSC combines reading, writing, lecture, discussion and invited speakers with actual organizing work to develop knowledge and experience you can use to advance personal and collective goals now and in the future whether as a professional community organizer, a volunteer, an employee, or a leader.  At its core, community organizing is about mobilizing people to accomplish something.  The ability to do that is vital not only to citizenship in a democracy, but to many other dimensions of life.    


            One final note: Given the dynamic nature of organizing work, this syllabus will likely be revised to some extent as we proceed this semester.  I will notify you of any changes, and keep an updated copy of the syllabus on our course site on Blackboard.  






Our aims in this course are to:


1)      Learn how to inform people, mobilize them for action, and make social change.


2)      Gain experience as a citizen in persuasive argument and addressing a reading public by writing a newspaper op-ed. 


3)      Improve voter knowledge and turnout among targeted Stetson students.





Bobo, Kim, Jackie Kendall and Steve Max.  2010.  Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists, 4th ed.  Santa Ana, CA: Forum Press.


Shaw, Catherine.  2009.  The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections, 4th edNew York: Westview Press.


In addition, I will provide you with free copies of other readings in class.






Your assignments and their corresponding course grade percentages are as follows:


End-of-Semester Portfolio                  10%

Post-Election Op-Ed                           10%

Attendance, Participation & Writing  30%

Your Organizing Work                       50%


Each of the above assignments is explained below. 


Post-Election Op-Ed (10%)


Conventionally, students are asked to write papers for their courses.  Papers are usually intellectually useful exercises.  But the conventional course paper is not the only way you can learn to think through writing.  Furthermore, upon graduation, seldom, if ever, will you write a conventional course paper again.  Lastly, course papers are usually read by only two people: the student and their professor.  This “op-ed” assignment is your chance to write something different: an article for an audience of dozens, hundreds or even thousands.  You may not get published.  Most don’t.  Publication depends on a variety of factors, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of your writing.  But   you will get practice in the craft of communicating a thoughtful, informed opinion to a wider audience of people.  That’s a craft you just may practice after you graduate. 


An “op-ed,” also known as an “opinion column,” is a short (no more than 650 words in our case) newspaper article through which a writer argues a point of view on an issue.  Op-eds are so named because they initially appeared “opposite the editorial page” in newspapers, that is, opposite the newspaper editors’ editorials or written opinions on issues of the day.  Op-eds give a newspaper’s readers their chance to voice their opinions and share information on issues that matter to fellow newspaper readers.  While the American newspaper business appears to be in decline, practicing writing an op-ed remains useful because opinion columns will still constitute a staple of public discourse for years to come, whether in print newspapers or online, and because writing an op-ed remains one important way to be an active citizen in your democracy.


            Your own op-ed should make an argument on an issue concerning community organizing.  Your op-ed should incorporate some of what you have learned through course readings, lectures, invited speakers and/or discussion, and reflect on your experience working to improve voter knowledge and turnout among citizens.  I will explain this assignment further in class, and through detailed op-ed guidelines I will post on Blackboard ahead of the op-ed deadline. 


Your op-ed is due to me via email and to your chosen newspaper by Sunday, November 21 at 5pm.  Your op-ed should be attached as a Microsoft Word document, single-spaced, in 12-point font, Times New Roman type, with standard margins. 


Op-eds received within the 24 hours after 5pm Sunday, November 21 will be graded down half a grade (e.g., A- to B+, or B to B-).  Op-eds will be graded down a full letter grade (e.g., B to C, or A- to B-) for every 24 hour time span thereafter.  In other words, it is in your interest to email me your op-ed by the November 21 deadline if not sooner!   


Attendance, Participation & Writing (30%)


Attendance and Participation:


Class attendance and participation are each worth 7.5% of your final course grade, for a total of 15%.  Class attendance is very important because a good portion of your training in community organizing, and a lot of the discussion and planning for our organizing work will occur in class.  Accordingly, I will take attendance at the start of each class, and expect you to attend every class.  If you are more than five minutes late to class by my watch, I will not count you as attending, though you may still earn participation points by participating even if you arrive late to class.  Please let me know in advance if you cannot make a class.  Medical or team-related absences are acceptable, with a note from your doctor or coach, including their contact information.  


In my experience as both a teacher and student, students pay more attention, feel more interested, and learn better when they are active participants in the class conversation, rather than strictly listeners.  This is especially true in this course on community organizing, which is intended to nurture your ability to lead.  Thus, your participation in class is highly valued. 


I urge you to help make our class a positive learning environment by being:


(1) Open: Being open to differences of opinion.

(2) Respectful: Respectfully engaging in class discussions.

(3) Nurturing: Encouraging and, constructively criticizing each other (e.g., not “what you did wrong was…”

     but “here’s what you did well, and here’s one thing you might work on…”)

(4) Deferential: Allowing those who speak less to speak first.

(5) Learning-focused: Focusing less on grades and more on learning.

(5) Supportive: Helping each other out in your community organizing work in and out of class, when appropriate. 


The above principles are not just useful in spurring work and learning, they are some of the marks of a good community organizer.  In addition, please follow these guidelines for class conduct:


1.         Do not read books, magazines, or else during class unless instructed to do so.

2.         Do not do homework for another course during class.

3.         Do not arrive late to class and do not leave early. If, on rare occasions, you cannot avoid arriving late,

            then come in and get settled quietly so you do not disrupt class for everyone else.

4.         Please get a drink or go to the bathroom before or after class, not during class.

5.         Do not talk to other classmates while the professor or another student is speaking.

6.         Raise your hand to be recognized before you begin speaking.

7.         Do not interrupt anyone who is speaking.

8.         Use a reasonable tone of voice when speaking in class.

9.         Turn off your cell phone during class and put your cell phone out of sight.

10.       Do not bring your computer to class unless I ask you to.


Violation of any of the above class conduct guidelines may adversely impact your participation grade.


Written Assignments:


Beyond the op-ed assignment described above, there will be a variety of small writing assignments.  Many of these writing assignments will be reading responses (I will usually email you 2-4 questions in advance, and you should bring your typed responses to class).  Other writing assignments may include a one-paragraph biography about you to be posted on our online course site, and short newspaper letters-to-the-editor or blog posts.  I will generally grade these assignments as follows:


√++ = Excellent (A range): Assignment was completed with great care  and/or accuracy.

                        √+ = Good (B range): Assignment was completed with good care and/or accuracy, but there are some problems with one and/or the other.

                        √ = Fair (C range): Assignment was completed with some care and/or accuracy, but there are problems with one and/or the other.

                        √- = Poor (D range): Assignment was completed with little care and/or accuracy.  There are a lot of problems with one and/or the other.

                        F = Failed (0%): Assignment was barely completed, or not completed at  all.


The meaning of care and accuracy: Depending on the writing assignment, care can refer to the extent to which an assignment is completed with:


1)      Adherence to the assignment instructions.

2)      Thoughtful or extensive reference to the readings.

3)      Insightful connection of readings, discussion and/or experience.

4)      Clear, precise, well organized, and vivid prose.  

5)      Few or no writing (grammar, spelling, syntax) errors.


Accuracy simply refers to whether or to what extent you got the answer to a question right.  Accuracy pertains especially to reading questions that test whether you comprehend the readings. 


Not all writing assignments will be graded.  We may at times simply use writing in class to help us think about our course reading, class discussion, organizing work, and the connections between these three.        


Your Organizing Work (50%) and End-of-Semester Portfolio (10%)


            Fifty percent of your grade in this course is determined by your own community organizing work.  Some of your work will be assigned (e.g., you will all do some one-on-one organizing), and some of it will be of your own choosing.  I am purposefully keeping much of the nature of your work open in part to allow you some discretion to pursue what interests or challenges you most, and in part because we need to be flexible to meet the demands of what will likely be an evolving project. 


            Over the course of the semester you will all engage in some individual work, and some collaborative work.  In choosing how you wish to contribute to this project, you are free to work individually, or in groups of two or more, as appropriate.  As to what you do, beyond that work I will ask all of you to do, I encourage you, in consultation with me, to: (1) do what you feel most capable of doing, and (2) do some things you have never done before, and/or feel less capable of doing.  This may sound contradictory, but I am asking you to do both.  And this is one way in which this course may change your life, by developing your strengths, by trying things you have never done before, and discovering capabilities you may never have known you have.                                     


            As we progress through the semester, keep a precise chronological log of all your project activities and accomplishments outside the classroom.  Also, keep in a file all materials you create for our student voter education and turnout campaign (an informational leaflet, fact sheet, event poster, webpages or blog entries, a graphic design, logo, etc.).  At the end of the semester, you will submit: (a) your chronological log, (b) any materials you created, and (c) a written reflection regarding what you feel you learned as an organizer over the course of the semester.  These items will constitute your end-of-semester portfolio.  I will use these documents, plus my own experience of your community organizing work throughout the semester, to determine your grade for your organizing work. 


            The criteria I will use to assess your organizing work are the following:


1)      Effort: How much work you did, and your meticulousness in carrying out that work.

2)      Achievement: What you accomplished.

3)      Initiative: How much you volunteered, or did without my asking you.

4)      Creativity: When applicable, your artfulness or resourcefulness in carrying out your work. 

5)      Responsiveness: How quickly you responded to my requests and our evolving campaign needs.


All five of the above criteria are valuable in community organizing, and valued in many organizations and workplaces.  Generally, the more you exercise initiative, take energetic ownership of your work in this class, and seize the bull by the horns, so to speak, the more you will likely get out of this class, and the better you will do.           


            I will hold one-on-one meetings with each of you three times during the semester to discuss your organizing work, including what you are doing well and what you can improve upon. 





The course grade scale in this course is as follows:


A+ = 97-100%

A   = 94-96%

A- = 90-93%

B+ = 87-89%

B   = 84-86%

B-  = 80-83%

C+ = 77-79%

C   = 74-76%

C-  = 70-73%

D+ = 67-69%

D   = 64-66%

D-  = 60-63%

F    = 59% and below





If you have a disability, and require course accommodations, please register with the Academic Resources Center (822-7127; then notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations.  You and I can then discuss how best to meet your needs. 







In order to assure that Stetson University is meeting its goals in providing an excellent General Education, the College has established specific General Education Learning Outcomes for all courses meeting a particular area requirement in the General Education curriculum. To monitor how well students are meeting those outcomes, instructors of those courses regularly submit work to the committees assessing each outcome. While the outcomes of these assessments are primarily for our internal use in monitoring and enhancing our curriculum, we may occasionally report the results of these assessments in published research or academic conferences. All such reports will include aggregate (not individual) data and will not include information that could identify the student or the instructor. While the use of this information within the institution is part of normal educational practice, you may choose not to allow data derived from your own work to be used for published reports or presentations by signing an “opt out” form in the Registrar’s office.







From the Stetson University Honor Code Webpage:




As an institution of higher learning, Stetson University depends upon its members—students, faculty, staff, and administration—to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity. Without a commitment to this ideal, the foundation of our educational mission is undermined, and truth—the ultimate goal of our pursuits at the university—loses its meaning and force. The Honor System seeks to nourish a vital campus culture, one where students, faculty, administration, and staff are mutually committed to pursuing truth in a spirit of cooperation and respect. Laws and rules exist to protect a society and its members, but truly to flourish, a community relies upon the individual to take responsibility for his or her actions and to uphold certain bedrock principles. The Honor System specifies actions that are harmful to the community and establishes ways of dealing with those who violate basic standards. But the primary justification for the Honor System is that it challenges individuals to reflect upon the ethical issues they face as members of a university and encourages them to take positive steps to maintain the integrity of themselves and their community. Moreover, by affirming student self-governance in the form of an Honor Council, this Honor System underscores the central roles that both students and faculty play in upholding academic integrity.


The Honor Pledge


A.        The Honor Pledge is a promise made by undergraduates to uphold high standards of integrity and honesty in their academic work. By enrolling in Stetson University, students commit themselves to abide by the principles and spirit of the Honor System. They will be asked to demonstrate that commitment by signing a written pledge that will be kept on file by the Honor Council.


B.        Faculty are encouraged to underscore the continuing vitality of the Honor Pledge by having students reaffirm their promise when turning in tests, quizzes, papers, or other assignments. For the purposes of assignments, a student who writes the word "Pledged" followed by her or his signature is understood to be reaffirming her or his commitment to the principles of the Honor System.


C.        The Pledge:  As a member of Stetson University, I agree to uphold the highest standards of integrity in my academic work. I promise that I will neither give nor receive unauthorized aid of any kind on my tests, papers, and assignments. When using the ideas, thoughts, or words of another in my work, I will always provide clear acknowledgement of the individuals and sources on which I am relying. I will avoid using fraudulent, falsified, or fabricated evidence and/or material. I will refrain from resubmitting without authorization work for one class that was obtained from work previously submitted for academic credit in another class. I will not destroy, steal, or make inaccessible any academic resource material. By my actions and my example, I will strive to promote the ideals of honesty, responsibility, trust, fairness, and respect that are at the heart of Stetson's Honor System.


Plagiarism & Collusion


            Refer to your "Guide to Plagiarism and Collusion", which defines plagiarism and collusion, and explains the correct format for direct quotations from another person's work. Be sure to correctly cite any direct quotations, and correctly reference paraphrasing of theorists’ words. If there are examples of plagiarism and/or collusion in the paper, the grade will be lowered one letter grade for every incidence of uncited references and plagiarism. For example, if you have one incidence of plagiarism and your grade was a 90, you will receive an 80 on that assignment. If you have three incidences of plagiarism, and your grade was 90, then you will receive a grade of 60. If you have more than three incidents of plagiarism in your paper you will receive a '0'. Students who have cheated, plagiarized or colluded will be reported to the Honor Council, according to policy.





Note: OSC below refers to the course book, Organizing for Social Change, and TCM refers to the other course book, The Campaign Manager.


Wednesday, August 18:

Introductions, written exercise, and review of the syllabus.


Monday, August 23:

Reading due for today’s class:

TCM, How to Use This Handbook (p.xiii-xviii), Chapter 1: Precinct Analysis (p.1-20), Appendix (p.391-409).


Wednesday, August 25:

Reading due for today’s class:

TCM, Chapter 7: Targeting Voters (p.165-210)


Monday, August 30:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 3: Choosing an Issue (p.21-27)

OSC, Chapter 4: Developing a Strategy (p.29-44)

TCM, Chapter 12: The Campaign Flowchart (p.373-380)


Wednesday, September 1:

Reading due for today’s class:

“Tried and True: Campus Voter Registration Strategies” (p.1-12).  Available online at:


Monday, September 6:

NO CLASS – Labor Day. 


Wednesday, September 8:

Reading due for today’s class:

TCM, Chapter 3: The Campaign Brochure (p.37-74)

Handout: “What Works, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next” (p.135-163) in Get Out the Vote by Donald Green and Alan Gerber.


Monday, September 13:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 10: Recruiting (p. 109-116)

TCM, Chapter 4: The Volunteer Organization (p.75-89)


**FIRST ONE-ON-ONE ORGANIZING MEETING: Schedule a 15-minute meeting with me this week to discuss your organizing work.  Note my office hours are Monday and Wednesday 2-3:45pm, but I can meet with you at other times as well. 


Wednesday, September 15:

TCM, Chapter 11: Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) (p.341-372)

OSC, Chapter 15: Online Organizing (p.176-187)


Monday, September 20:

Reading due for today’s class:

TCM, Chapter 8: Media (p.211-259)

OSC, Chapter 14: Using the Media (p.159-173)


Wednesday, September 22:

No reading for today.  Guest speakers on campaigning and/or gaining media coverage.


Monday, September 27:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 12: Planning and Facilitating Meetings (p.127-138)

OSC, Chapter 13: Public Speaking and Presentations Using Power Point (p.139-158)


Wednesday, September 29:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 11: Developing Leadership (p.117-125)


Monday, October 4:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 24: Supervision (p.307-336)


Wednesday, October 6:

Reading due for today’s class:

TCM, Chapter 5: Fund-Raising (p.91-144)

OSC, Chapter 19: Grassroots Fundraising (p.241-251)


Monday, October 11:

No reading for today.  Guest speakers on fundraising.


**SECOND ONE-ON-ONE ORGANIZING MEETING: Schedule a 15-minute meeting with me this week of October 11-15 to discuss your organizing work.  Note my office hours are Monday and Wednesday 2-3:45pm, but I can meet with you at other times as well. 


Wednesday, October 13-Monday, November 1

No readings during this period as we will devote most of our in-class time to organizing reports, reflection and planning as we approach the November 2 election.


**Fall Break: Thursday October 14-Sunday October 17**



Polls are open 7am to 7pm.  Reserve at least two hours in this time period for election day organizing.


**THIRD AND FINAL ONE-ON-ONE ORGANIZING MEETING: Schedule a 15-minute meeting with me after November 2 to reflect on your organizing work.  Note my office hours are Monday and Wednesday 2-3:45pm, but I can meet with you at other times as well. 


Wednesday, November 3:

No reading for today.  We will reflect on our organizing efforts and election day, and discuss your post-election op-ed assignment. 


Monday, November 8:

Reading due for today’s class:

Handout: “Community Organizing and Social Change” by Randy Stoecker in Contexts

OSC, Chapter 2: Fundamentals of Direct Action Organizing (p.5-19)

OSC, Chapter 6: Organizing Models (p.61-68)


Wednesday, November 10:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 5: A Guide to Tactics (p.45-59)


Monday, November 15:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 7: Meetings to Pressure Officials (p.69-78)

OSC, Chapter 17: Tactical Investigations (p.199-206 only)


Wednesday, November 17:

Reading due for today’s class:

Handout: Andrew Boyd, The Activist Cookbook (p.4-33)


**OP-ED DUE BY SUNDAY, November 21 by 5pm to me and to your chosen newspaper via email.  Your op-ed should be attached as a Microsoft Word document, single-spaced, in 12-point font, Times New Roman type, with standard margins. 


Monday, November 22:

No reading for today.  Guest speakers on guerrilla/street theater. 


**Thanksgiving Break: Wednesday, November 23-Sunday November 28**


Monday, November 29:

Reading due for today’s class:

OSC, Chapter 23: Controlling Your Work (p.297-305)

OSC, Chapter 26: Working for the Long Haul (p.357-363)


Wednesday, December 1:

Last class.  No reading for today.  We will reflect on our semester’s work, and I will offer some concluding reflections. 


**END-OF-SEMESTER PORTFOLIO DUE by Sunday, December 12, 5pm to me via email, in the bin on my office door, or under my office door. Portfolios received after 5pm Sunday, December 12 will be graded down a full letter grade (e.g., B to C, or A- to B-) for every 24 hour time span thereafter.  In other words, it is in your interest to email me your portfolio by the December 12 deadline if not sooner!