National Institutions: Congress
Fall 2016 - Still a grad student. However, he is a very relatable guy and his lectures are amazing. Can be dry/ off topic at times because he mumbles but means well. Is willing to explain stuff and really cares about students using his office hours if they need it. No textbook required. Just a midterm and final (that can be a test or research paper you choice). Graded 60/40, whichever you do better on is the 60%. part. Very doable to get an A in the class
Excellent professor. He is really funny, easy-going, and the kind of guy whose lectures you want to go to. He gives students the opportunity to participate, he shows YouTube videos and tells funny stories, and he uses a lot of Jon Stewart style self-deprecating humor. As far as easiness goes, it's fair to say that it's an easy B but a difficult A. The key to doing well is knowing the notes he puts online by heart and really understanding (not just memorizing) his lectures. The points are not given "at random" at all; it will only seem that way if you didn't comprehend the material. His classes are 10% online quizzes (he'll occasionally have a pop quiz in class, but mostly that just means signing your name on a piece of paper proving you attended), and the rest is the midterm and final. Most tests he gives out involve 20 fill in the blank questions (you get a list of the questions ahead of time online, from the online quizzes) and then 2 mandatory essay questions and 4 essay questions you choose out of 6 options. There is very little reading, relative to most professors, and to be honest you don't even have to do the reading; you can just skim or "ctrl f" sometimes for the answers. I don't know what the previous poster was talking about, but I've now taken three courses with Phil, and I can tell you he has the logic of a vulcan. He doesn't show much (if any) political bias, and he says things as they are. To give you an idea of his objectivity, halfway through one of his classes he asked people to raise their hands if they thought he was a Democrat or a Republican. A room full of Poli Sci majors and half the class said Democrat and half the class said Republican. Cool-headed, he doesn't get upset or offended very easily. For example, if you're messing around on your computer in class, he'll ask you what you're doing on it, make fun of you, and politely ask you to stop. The most awesome thing about Phil is that he honestly cares about teaching. He has zero interest in doing political research, which might mean that he won't have a long career at UCLA, but it does mean that he's a guy who really focuses all his energy on his students and being there for them. His office hours are packed because the students love him and because they want answers to the online quizzes, so get there early; there'll be a line. It is true that a few times he has sent out emails asking people he suspects of cheating to come forward. He sends it to all his students to give people he knows for a fact cheated a chance to redeem themselves; don't freak out if you didn't cheat and received the email. (word to the wise, don't cheat) The previous poster said that Phil made racist comments; I have no idea what he or she is talking about. Phil is very sensitive about people's cultural heritage, and any time he brings up the topic of ethnicity, he let's everyone speak. The poster has the right to his/her opinion, but I have literally no idea where it came from. If you want an entertaining lecturer who really cares about teaching, take Phil.
Easily the best class I've taken thus far at UCLA. The lectures at the beginning of the quarter were more interesting than the lectures at the end of the quarter, but don't let that stop you from going to class even though the lectures are podcast. It's obvious that Professor James knows what he's talking about, and if you see him in office hours he happily will expand upon course content. I went several times before the midterm and it really helped clarify some concepts (especially because my TA wasn't helpful at all). You do have to study for this class, but as far as the midterm and final go, if you prepare the questions he gives you, you can't fail. It's really straightforward. The paper was a pain in the ass, but relative to other 15 page papers it was easy to write. I didn't do a ton of the reading because there is a lot of it, and reading everything for substance would've been impossible. I skimmed the relevant chapters before the midterm and final and prepared the answers and I was fine. You definitely get out of the class what you put in for effort, though. I highly recommend this class. And, uhhhh, I'm not Professor James. Final grade: A.
Definitely one of the toughest classes I have taken in my entire life. We had two giant readers for the quarter; by the end we have had read at least 900 pages. As said below, this is not a Poli Sci class, everything discussed in class is law and court case- related. Not very impressed by Professor Lebow, although she does know a lot regarding each case. If you are planning to attend law school, and you like challenges, the take her. Otherwise, I would not recommend taking a class with her. The class consists of one in- class midterm, and a take-home essay.
I took PS140A with this professor. I never went to class and still got an A+. Regardless of what everyone says (that going to class is imperative to getting a good grade), all you really need to do is read after the midterm and final are assigned and before they're due. Take him.