In this course, we review the main roles and functions of the U.S. Congress—representation, lawmaking, government oversight, and legitimizing the American political system—and consider why it is that the institution that the Framers most directly connected to the people is now so thoroughly hated by the American public.  Over the course of the weekend, we will review the constitutional design for the Congress and evaluate the ways in which the contemporary Congress has evolved from its historical roots.  We consider such issues as the development and polarization of the political parties, changes in public expectations about representation, and internal changes to the House and Senate, and we explore how these changes have affected both Congress’s productivity and the public’s expectations of the institution over time.  Participants will engage with the readings and course content in a series of discussions and a weekend-long simulation of the major steps in the legislative process. 

About the Scholars

Dr. Lauren C. Bell is Professor of Political Science and Dean of Academic Affairs at Randolph-Macon College. She holds a B.A. from the College of Wooster (Ohio) and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at The University of Oklahoma. She is a former American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow on the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary and a former United States Supreme Court fellow at the United States Sentencing Commission in Washington, DC. She is the author of Filibustering in the U.S. Senate, Warring Factions: Interest Groups, Money, and the New Politics of Senate Confirmation, and The U.S. Congress, A Simulation for Students, as well as co-author of Perspectives on Political Communication: A Case Approach. Dr. Bell joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon in Fall 1999 and served as Associate Dean of the College from Fall 2007 until her appointment in 2014 as Dean of Academic Affairs.

Dr. Michael Crespin is the Associate Director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at The University of Oklahoma and Associate Professor of Political Science. He earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2005 and served in the office of U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski as an APSA Congressional Fellow from 2005-06. He joined the University of Oklahoma in 2014 after serving on the faculty at the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Georgia. Some of his work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Analysis, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Professor Crespin's research with co-authors has won the Harold Gosnell Prize for the best work in political methodology and the Patrick J. Fett Award for the best paper on the scientific study of Congress and the Presidency.