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PHILOS 4XP3A Law And Community

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Stefan Sciaraffa


Office: University Hall 309

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23467


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

Course Description:

The JPPL Program mission statement holds:


The aim of Justice, Political Philosophy and Law at McMaster University (JPPL) is to foster a sophisticated understanding of the law and legal institutions that make up the social world in which we live….


Like all JPPL courses, Phil 4XP3 seeks to serve this mission. However, it does so in a unique way—by hosting visits with a number of offices whose central mission involves participating in the political and legal processes in which laws are made, applied, and developed. Through these visits and assigned background readings, the student will have the opportunity to develop:


  1. A general understanding of the main function of each office of the type visited.
  2. A general understanding of how these offices interact with the legal and political process, e.g., the legal and political institutions with which each office typically deals and the kinds of law that are most relevant to these dealings.
  3. Detailed knowledge of at least one specific case or matter that the offices of the type visited have dealt with.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Method of Assessment:

Journal (35%): This journal will comprise entries for each office visit. Each entry will report information relevant to (1) to (3) above. These entries should be no more than 800 words and must be submitted on Avenue to Learn within one week after the relevant office visit. Students will receive a grade for this journal on or before March 11.


Final Paper (30%): No more than 5000 words. Due Friday, April 1 on Avenue to Learn. This paper should detail the student’s understanding of the workings of one of the offices visited by the class as a group and the office she investigates on her own as part of her independent engagement.  This paper should also contain a substantial section assessing the value and justice of the two offices’ efforts and the larger legal and political processes to which they contribute.


Independent Engagement (35%): Each student will independently investigate an office other than those visited by the class as a group. The student must identify and synthesize background reading material about the office, and the student might (but need not) visit in person with the office she chooses to study.  The student should consult with me in advance about the office she plans to investigate and how she will approach the office should she wish to meet with them personally. The student will have 20 minutes in class to present her findings, and she must provide a summary handout that includes a bibliography of relevant background reading material. These presentations will take place toward the end of Winter Term.



Given that we will be meeting with outside offices, irregular attendance would undermine not only the success of the class but also the standing of the JPPL Program and McMaster University with the larger community. Hence, I am asking each student to commit to attending every office visit, and I am instituting the following strict attendance policy: No student with more than one unexcused absence with respect to an office visit will be able to receive credit for the course. Absences will only be excused in cases of documented family or medical emergencies.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Other Course Information:

Administrative Notes:

1.) The class is scheduled to convene for one three-hour session each week throughout the fall and winter terms from 3:30 to 5:20 on Mondays. We will not  meet every week. The class-meeting schedule will be updated periodically on Avenue to Learn. It is the student’s responsibility to watch for these updates.


2.) The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to

final letter grades. For this class, the only possible final grades will be pass or fail.


3.) It is the policy of the Philosophy Department that all email communication between

students and instructors (including TAs) must originate from their official McMaster

University email accounts. This policy protects the confidentiality and sensitivity of

information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor.

Philosophy department instructors will delete messages that do not originate from

McMaster email accounts.


4.) The instructor and the University reserve the right to modify elements of the course

during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all

courses. If either type of modification becomes necessary, where possible reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Students should check their McMaster email and course websites frequently during the term and to note any changes.