Open to the public, presidential election class will cut through the noise

Professors Joel Kassiola and Marcela Garcia-Castañon are smiling with book-lined shelves in the background.

Professors Joel Kassiola and Marcela Garcia-Castañon said the “2016 Presidential Election Public Lecture Series” will feature an election returns watch party on Tues., Nov. 8, in SF State’s 800-seat McKenna Theatre and they expect a full house. All are invited.

Community-building series focuses on the issues  

If you created a list of events that only occur every four years, it might include leap year, the Olympics, the World Cup and the U.S. presidential election. But at San Francisco State University, it also includes the “The 2016 Presidential Election Public Lecture Series,” offered by the Department of Political Science. And in an election year that has been repeatedly called the most “unprecedented," exploring the key issues will be the main focus of the class.   

Structured as a two-unit course, the lecture series is offered to students as a credit/no-credit class. Unlike any other class at SF State, however, it’s also offered to the public at no cost.

Professor of Political Science Joel Kassiola created the course in 2004. “Initially, I saw this as a great opportunity to get students and the public hooked on topics and lectures that they may not normally be interested in,” Kassiola said. “But during an election year, you automatically have an audience.” 

Kassiola and Assistant Professor of Political Science Marcela Garcia-Castañon have organized the series into 15 weekly, 100-minute classes. Each class features a panel of SF State faculty members from various disciplines exploring a range of topics, including the criminal justice system, the Electoral College, immigration, the economy and foreign policy. 

Kassiola emphasized that the series provides a nonpartisan overview of the issues. “The class will get more in-depth analyses than they will get from the media. They will get analyses that are not tied to the candidates,” he said. “They will also get analyses that say, ‘This candidate doesn’t have a position on this issue, and this candidate does.’”

Once the election is over, the class doesn’t go away. “One of the highlights of the course is the analysis of the election results,” Kassiola said. “That’s followed up by discussion and speculation about what the new administration will do. The course ends with presentations about ways everyone can stay involved in public affairs during the next four years leading to the 2020 election.”

Students and the public can attend the lectures in SF State’s McKenna Theatre on Tuesdays from 4:10 to 5:50 p.m., or lectures can be viewed online 24 hours after each class.