Political Science

Department Policies

Since most Political Science courses are taught as conferences of 24 or less, we apply Enrollment Priority Policy criteria twice; first, on the last day of classes of spring semester; and second, the first day of class.

See our Policy Regarding Transfer Of Credits For Political Science and AP/IB Credit Policy for the Department's specific policies; for the College's general policies, see the registrar's page on Transferring Credit and Admission's AP Guide.

While we do not regularly approve ad hoc majors, we do outline our general requirements for such majors; see Political Science Policy on Interdisciplinary Ad Hoc Majors. Political Science can be used as a home department for International and Comparative Policy StudiesEnvironmental Studies, or American Studies, among others; see the full list of college-wide Interdisciplinary Study and Dual Degrees maintained by the Admissions Office.

Enrollment Priority Policy

(Approved May 2008, modified September 2014)

All Political Science courses are taught as conferences; in order to ensure that students who need to take particular classes to satisfy requirements, we apply priority criteria to all POL classes when enrollment exceeds 24.

We have slightly different criteria for introductory courses (2x0) and upper-level (3xx and 4xx) courses, since POL, ES-POL, and ICPS-POL majors are required to complete all three of their introductory courses by the end of their junior year. Since our introductory courses are often required for our upper-level courses, for non-majors we give priority to those earlier in their Reed careers. Finally, we reserve a third of the slots for all introductory classes for freshmen.

Note that Reed does not allow for an official declaration of major until after completing 13 units. Sophomores and Freshmen who intend to declare as POL, ES-POL, or ICPS-POL majors may change their (unofficial) major status on IRIS before that time by visiting the Registrar's office in person. There is no official form.

Introductory course waitlist priority (for the 2/3 of the slots not for freshmen):

  1. POL, ES-POL, and ICPS-POL majors by class rank (Juniors>Sophomores)
  2. Students who were capped out the previous year
  3. Other ICPS majors (Juniors>Sophomores)
  4. ES and HSS majors (Juniors>Sophomores)
  5. Other students by inverse class rank (Sophomores>Juniors>Seniors)
  6. Any ties within categories of students will be in resolved in order of registration, prioritizing Day 1 registrants.

Upper-level course waitlist priority:

  1. POL, ES-POL, and ICPS-POL majors by class rank (Seniors>Juniors>Sophomores)
  2. Other ICPS majors (Seniors>Juniors>Sophomores)
  3. ES and HSS majors by class rank (Seniors>Juniors>Sophomores)
  4. Other students
  5. Any ties within categories of students will be in resolved in order of registration, prioritizing Day 1 registrants.

These criteria are applied the last day of classes in Spring semester.

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AP/IB Credit Policy

(Revised June 2008, July 2010, December 2015)

The HSS Division and Administration committees manage Divisional and Group requirements.  Students who are taking Political Science for Divisional or Group B requirements are still required to take at least one introductory course regardless of AP or IB credits. Department policies regarding AP or IB credits are contained below:

A student who has received a 4 or 5 on either the AP Comparative Politics exam or the AP American Government exam or both may:

  1. Waive one of the three introductory courses required for the major; the student must take at least two introductory courses at Reed even if both exams are passed, and still must take seven political science courses.
  2. Use either exam to satisfy a prerequisite for a generic "200-level POL course" for upper-division classes. The AP Comparative exam may also be used as a prerequisite in place of Pol 220.  The AP American Government exam is NOT comparable to Pol 210, and will not substitute as Pol 210 for the purposes of prerequisites.
For grades of 5 or higher on the IB Global Politics HL exam, a student may waive one of the three introductory courses required for the major, and may use the exam to satisfy a prerequisite for a generic "200-level POL course" for upper-division classes. It may not be used as a prerequisite in place of Pol 220 or Pol 240.

Policy Regarding Transfer Of Credits For Political Science

(Approved September 12, 1996; Amended Sept. 24, 1997; Amended August 24, 2007; Amended February 22, 2009; Amended July 2010; Amended December 2015)

Students must submit their requests for transfer units within one year of arriving at Reed. The Political Science Department's Policy for transferring credits depends on whether a student is majoring in Political Science or not, and when the credits are earned for majors.

Non-majors. All non-majors must take at least one introductory (200-level) course at Reed College to satisfy Group B or Divisional requirements through Political Science. Consequently, even if you take multiple Political Science courses at another university before or after arriving at Reed, only one course can be transferred to count towards these requirements regardless of which courses you take, introductory or not. Exceptions to this rule are occasionally granted by the department on a case-by-case basis for transferred courses with syllabi that are exceptionally similar to a specific introductory course as taught at Reed.

The department cannot give credit for a course without a syllabus demonstrating that the course is, in fact, a Political Science course; consequently, we can only provisionally pre-approve courses. However, we do regularly approve courses after transfer with a syllabus. Note that departmental approval is only required for Group B or Divisional credits; the registrar may award bulk credit.

Transfer students majoring in Political Science. The Department recognizes that transfer students may face difficulties in completing all the requirements for a major in a timely way. Depending on a transfer student's past courses, the Department may consider petitions that grant transfer students greater flexibility in their program.

If you are a transfer student who plans to become a Political Science major, the Department requires that at least two introductory courses be completed at Reed if you are transferring in as a sophomore. Two introductory courses are highly recommended if you are transferring in as a junior.

All Political Science Majors. Sometimes, majors take political science courses at another university in the United States or overseas after matriculation. If you plan to do so, you should discuss your courses in advance with the Department. Present the Department with course descriptions and, if available, a syllabus. The following rules apply to course pre-approval requests for all Reed study abroad programs as well as credits transferred from non-Reed approved programs.

If you are a major, you may take a maximum of two upper level courses at another university to meet your upper level political science course requirements. Majors will note that some 200-level courses are offered once a year, and they may not be able to take the course either due to a schedule conflict or enrollment in study abroad programs. In these cases, upon the advisor's recommendation, the Department will consider granting credit for courses that are equivalent to Pol 200 level courses taken at other universities. But generally the department strongly prefers that majors take all three required 200 level courses at Reed.

Political Science Policy on Interdisciplinary Ad Hoc Majors

(as approved by the department on 10/17/02)

Requests for ad hoc interdisciplinary majors will require a clear and compelling rationale, and will not normally be approved. Students requesting them must not only find two advisors from the participating departments, but must also receive written approval from both departments as specified in the Faculty Code. In order to receive such approval, the student must formally petition the department.

Requirements of the petition:

This petition must state the educational goals and benefits of the ad hoc major and how these goals could not be met within a traditional major. Barring unusual circumstances, such petitions much be received by the first Monday following the break of the first semester of a student's junior year (normally, the first Monday after fall break

  1. The ad hoc major MUST include the following:
    1. 3 gateway courses (200 level Political Science courses).
    2. 3 upper division Political Science courses (i.e, 300 or 400 level).
    3. Econ 201 or any of the approved quantitative courses listed in the catalog as satisfying the Political Science statistics requirement
    4. The regular Political Science junior qualifying exam.
  2. If the ad hoc major is outside the HSS Division, then at least two courses in another HSS department.

Political Science is interdisciplinary by its very nature. Substantively, it focuses on political decision making by individuals, groups, and governments; but its methodology and theoretical underpinnings draw on psychology, sociology, economics, history, anthropology and philosophy. The Reed Political Science major reflects this in its structure, requiring both breadth within the major (the "gateway courses") and outside the major (the HSS distribution requirements, plus Econ 201, and statistical reasoning). For these reasons, we believe that the Reed Political Science curriculum is flexible enough to allow students to pursue their special interests within the context of our major and that ad hoc majors are unnecessary.

Ad hoc majors are time-consuming for faculty and potentially confusing and troublesome to administer. For these reasons, and because we believe that the political science major is already well-suited for interdisciplinary work, ad hoc majors require a clear and compelling rationale and are best suited for students with exemplary academic records.

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