P SC-3493-001

P SC-3493-001

Congress: Politics, (Water) Policy and the Constitution  


“Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes – one for peace and one for science.”   President John F. Kennedy Jr.

 “Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water.”  Mahatma Gandhi


This course provides a unique research-based experience designed to teach specific skills relevant in a digital world while exploring water policy and constitutional issues where Congress intersects with its co-equal branches.  The course is comprised of two interconnected elements. 

  •  a substantive introduction to theory and research on theThis component will be combined with a series of assignments aimed at developing four distinct skills essential to archival research and curation of web-based exhibits.  role of the Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and the relationship of the Congress to the coordinate branches of the federal government as well as to the state and tribal governments in interpreting and applying the Constitution; and
  • an experience with original archival research on the politics, policies and constitutional struggles of policymaking, with a specific focus on water policy.

Students will thus study the role of the Congress in the constitutional system and develop specific skills in archival research, digital technologies, digital humanities, teamwork, narrative historical writing, and political analysis.  The early weeks of the semester will focus primarily on the study of Congress and its role in the constitutional system and the history of the Clean Water Act.  Students will initially focus on the history of the development of federal clean water legislation from the Water Pollution Control Act of 1949 through adoption of the Federal Water Control Act of 1972 over the veto by President Nixon. This component will be combined with a series of assignments aimed at developing four distinct skills essential to archival research and curation of web-based exhibits. In the second half of the course, students will research, curate and develop digital exhibits dealing other water policy controversies utilizing the Carl Albert Congressional Archives as a source for original research.

Instructor: Cindy Simon Rosenthal; GTA Lindsay Marshall

Location and class time:  Monnet Hall, room 452; MWF 9:30- 10:20 a.m.

Office Hours: Mon 1:30-2:30 or by appointment

Required Texts

Charles Fishman, 2012, The Big Thirst. Free Press

Paul Charles Milazzo, 2006, Unlikely Environmentalists: Congress and Clean Water, 1945-1972, University of Kansas Press.

Other readings as posted in Canvas.

Grading Summary

Archival Assignments #1- 4             150 points

Content Responses                           50 Points

Participation/Attendance                   50 Points

Individual Paper:                              225 Points

Team Project:                                  125 Points

Total Course Points:                        600 Points

Other readings posted to LEARN.

Course Requirements

  1. Four archival assignments will help students learn the archival research skills of discovery, text analysis, data mapping and data coding. Due dates and details are available under assignments. The individual short assignments will prepare you for the key tasks associated with the group project. Assignments 3 and 4 involve an in-archives work session for which attendance is critical and should be considered mandatory. (150 Points)

 2. Each student will write five short responses (150- 200 words) submitted online as text entry or group discussion regarding the readings or course activities. (50 Points)

3.  Participation/Attendance. Students are expected to attend class during the regularly scheduled M-W-F sessions when they are held. This component of your grade will apply to your attendance and participation when the entire class meets. Failure to attend 50 % of schedule class periods will result in a one letter grade penalty off your final calculated grade. (50 Points)

4.Team Project. The team project will result in a web-based, curated exhibit on the assigned topic. Essentially, each project will include six elements: 1) discovery of data, 2) text analysis of relevant documents, 3) mapping of data, 4) coding and analysis of information, 5) a timeline or sequential analysis, and 6) works cited which must be drawn from the Carl Albert Archives or “.gov” sources.  The final curated, web-based exhibit must have all six elements.  A digital platform will be provided to assist students in completing the team project.  A class website will b provided through http://water.cacexplore.org/classpage/.   Each team will present its curated exhibit during the last week of class.

Students will receive an individual grade for their participation in the group projects based in part on faculty assessment of each student’s contribution to the overall team effort and in part on the overall quality of the final digital exhibit. (125 Points) 

 5. Final Paper.  Each student will write an individual paper relating to the team project. This individual paper should draw upon your work on the topic under investigation. Students may wish to supplement their archival research by consulting other publications or news sources. More detailed instructions and requirements for the final paper are available under Assignments. (225 Points -- Due December 7)



Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s work as if it were your own. It can take many forms.  The most obvious form is to turn in a paper that someone else wrote over your signature.  Or, you might copy material from a book or an article and present it as your own work.  When you use words that are directly copied from a source, you must place them in quotation marks and cite the source.  A person might make a few changes in the text, and then think that it is permissible to present the material without using quotation marks or without citing the source.  This is a form of paraphrasing.  Paraphrasing is still plagiarism, unless you explicitly say that you are paraphrasing and cite the source from which the original material comes.  Plagiarism is academic misconduct and is severely penalized.  Do not plagiarize.  If you do, expect that if you are caught you will face disciplinary procedures that can include expulsion from the University and will almost certainly result in your receiving an F in this class.  Remember that cheating with the clickers is like any other form of cheating.

For OU’s policy on Student Ethics and Plagiarism, please consult the following web site:



 Please arrive on time. Please make sure that your cell phone is turned off during class. 

 Policy on Withdrawals and Incompletes

You will only be allowed to withdraw from this course with a passing grade if you are in fact passing. If you are ill or have some personal situation that prevents you from attending class, your obligation is to contact us as soon as you start missing class in order to discuss your situation.  Exceptions to this policy will be made only in cases of complete withdrawal from the University approved by Student Affairs and the Dean's office.

Incompletes will be given only upon request and for good cause. Incompletes will not be given if a student has missed so much of the course that it is in a practical sense impossible to make up the work.  If an incomplete is given, the student will be asked to sign an agreement specifying the work to be completed and the date the work will be due.  The student will participate in the determination of the deadline.  Extensions will be given only under exceptional circumstances.

Policy on Accommodation.

If you have a disability that may affect your participation or performance in this class you should contact us personally as soon as possible so that we can discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate your educational opportunity. In particular, if you are qualified and plan to take your examinations at disability services, you need to provide the written documentation prior to each exam and make sure that we know that you are planning to take your exam there so that we can make arrangements for it.

Course Summary:

Date Details