POL 309-800, International Law
Fall 2019 |

International actors are bound by certain rules and principles in their interactions with one another. POL 309 surveys the creation, enforcement, and political implications of these rules and principles, collectively referred to as international law. During the semester we'll look at what comprises international law and how it works, covering topics such as the nature of international law, tensions between law and sovereignty, and questions of legitimacy, relevance, and justice. We'll also explore specific legal cases, some practical applications of international law, and a range of issues including human rights, diplomacy, war and force, the environment, and the global economy.

This syllabus tells you pretty much all you need to know to succeed in POL 309, and you'll be held accountable for all the information it contains. I reserve the right to modify the syllabus as the semester progresses, but I'll consult you before making any changes that could affect your grade and announce any notable revisions in class.


If you invest yourself in the course and all goes as planned, by the end of the semester you should be able to:

Of course, we can only achieve such goals if we create a classroom environment conducive to learning. You're probably already equipped to assist in this regard, but you should still (re)familiarize yourself with SUNY Oswego's non-discrimination policy. I expect our class sessions will go smoothly, but we'll address relevant issues if they arise.


Three books are required for this class:

If you opt for an eBook, you'll need to respect my electronics policy (below) and match the page numbers in your paper citations to those in the physical copy.

You don't need to read anything for this course other than the assigned readings. But if you'd like to dig a little deeper, I recommend JURIST World Legal News (for news stories related to IL) and Opinio Juris (for informed debates on relevant issues).


Cellphones, laptops, music players, and other electronic devices must be silenced and stowed out of reach whenever you're in the classroom. This rule applies whether or not class is in session and whether or not I'm physically present in the room.

Your failure to respect this policy may result in the following:

Excepted from this rule are tablet devices, which are allowed during class (only) if they're laid flat on your desk and used solely to access course materials.


You should attend class regularly, participate actively in group discussions, and make any needed arrangments if you're absent. Keep in mind that participation is 20% of your course grade, that you can't participate if you don't attend, and that you'll be held responsible for whatever happens in class (whether or not you attend).

In the event of inclement weather, prioritize your personal safety over class attendance. Of course, I'll let you know (via email) if I can't make it to campus and have to cancel class. Unless otherwise instructed, stay on schedule with readings and due dates if we miss a class session (for any reason); we'll catch up and make adjustments if needed when we return.


SUNY Oswego is committed to enhancing the safety and security of the campus for all its members. In support of this, faculty may be required to report their knowledge of certain crimes or harassment. Reportable incidents include harassment on the basis of sex or gender prohibited by Title IX and crimes covered by the Clery Act. For more information about Title IX protections, go to or contact the Title IX Coordinator, 405 Culkin Hall, 315-312-5604, For more information about the Clery Act and campus reporting, go to the University Police annual report:


SUNY Oswego is committed to Intellectual Integrity. Any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and therefore prohibited. As a student here, you're expected to fully adhere to the College Policy on Intellectual Integrity, according to which you're personally responsible "to assist in protecting the integrity of the degrees which this College grants by (1) not participating, either directly or indirectly, in intellectual dishonesty in any form, (2) actively discouraging intellectual dishonesty by others, and (3) reporting to the course instructor in a timely manner any known incidents of intellectual dishonesty."

By submitting your first course assignment for grading, you formally acknowledge that you fully understand the college policy including relevant definitions, consequences, and procedures. If you cheat, plagiarize, or otherwise engage in proscribed behavior, I may take any punitive action allowed by the university. Incidents will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but you should expect to receive a failing grade in POL 309 for any infraction.


Your course grade will be determined by the number of points you accrue during the semester:

470-500 = A
450-469 = A-

435-449 = B+
420-434 = B
400-419 = B-

385-399 = C+
370-384 = C
350-369 = C-

335-349 = D+
320-334 = D
300-319 = D-

111-299 = E

To receive a grade of A or A- on a written assignment, the quality of your content and presentation must be outstanding. Outstanding (A-range) content is demonstrably more well informed, thoughtfully considered, and analytically sophisticated than above average (B-range) or average (C-range) content. Outstanding presentation comprises clearly articulated and well organized points, ideally with no more than a handful of honest writing mistakes. Outstanding written work also must meet relevant structural requirements, including (fully) proper citation formatting. (Let me know if your native language isn't English and you're concerned about meeting these standards.)

I reserve the right to give you a zero on any late or missed assignment. Submissions that don't meet stated requirements are subject to a score reduction or other penalty, to be levied at my discretion.


Complete assigned readings before coming to class on the indicated dates. Always bring a copy of the day's reading to class with you and be ready to discuss the subject material.


Graded assignments and point values are as follows:

Additional information about each assignment will be presented in class and posted on the assignments page. (There's no final exam in this class, but your Blueprint is due at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, December 10.)

I'll be glad to read, discuss, or provide feedback on any written assignment before it's due, but only in a face-to-face meeting (not via email). So if you'd like some feedback before submitting an assignment for grading, be sure to allow sufficient time for a meeting and possible redrafting before the assignment deadline.


I'll assume you're doing as well as you'd like to in this class unless you tell me otherwise. If you need some extra help, just let me know and I'll do my best to assist you; I'll be glad to discuss with you any course-related questions or concerns you might have. You can stop by during my office hours, catch me after class, schedule an appointment, or send me an email.

My contact information and office hours are:

  • Office: 437 Mahar Hall
  • Phone: 315.312.4080
  • Hours: Tue/Thu, 12:30-2; Wed, 3-4

If you have a disabling condition that could interfere with your ability to successfully complete this class, please contact the Office of Accessibility Resources (155 Marano Campus Center, 315.312.3358,