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by Professor Robert Sahr
Political Science at Oregon State University dates back almost to its beginning as Corvallis College in the 1860s. Changes since that time have paralleled changes in thinking about college curricula and about the social sciences in particular not only at OSU but also nationally.
The first class that dealt with politics at OSU was called "Political Text Book," offered in the 1867-68 academic year, the third year of the existence of Corvallis College. The course was re-designated as "Political Science" the following year. During the next thirty years courses in political economy and the law of nations were added. Starting in 1872-73, one of seven schools in the College was the School of Moral Science, which included political economy as well as mental philosophy along with logic and inferential psychology. President Arnold served also as professor of both Moral Philosophy and Physics.
By 1885-86 "moral science" had become "moral philosophy," with political economy as one of its components. Three years later President Arnold was designated also as professor of English. In 1891-92 President Bloss was professor of mental and moral science, heading the Department of Mental and Moral Philosophy, with political economy a required course first term junior year. In 1896-97 President Thomas Gatch, an instructor in that department, divided the curriculum into economics, psychology, and civics. In the required civics course, according to the catalog: "Every clause of the constitution of the United States is made the subject of comment and explanation. The classes are required to memorize the most important sections," in this course required one half of the first term of sophomore year. As these examples illustrate, during this time student programs were rigidly prescribed, including not only which courses were required but also which years and terms they were to be taken.
The first identification of political science as a department was in academic year 1899-1900, by which time the institution was called the Oregon Agricultural College. President Gatch headed the Department of Mental and Political Science. The text for the required civics course was entitled Rights and Duties of American Citizenship. In 1904-05 the title of the civics course was changed to American Politics, using as text Johnson's History of American Politics.
In 1908 Political Science became identified as a department in the School of Commerce, which began that year. Department courses included Civil Government and Administration, Commercial Law, Advanced Civics and Law, and Constitutional Law and Politics. Within the next five years courses were added in Comparative Study of Governments, International Law, Rural Law, State and Municipal Government, and International Relations.
In academic year 1913-14 the School of Commerce added Professor Ulysses Grant Dubach to head the Political Science program. Several changes followed under his leadership. In 1917, Political Science became known as the Department of Government and Business Law, to be renamed the Department of Political Science two years later. Dubach, also Dean of Men, and Frank Evan Magruder were the two department members, then housed in the Commerce Building, now Bexell Hall. (Both men retired in 1947, when the State System imposed mandatory retirement for faculty over the specified age.)
In 1928-29, the Oregon State Agricultural College Catalog lists the following courses for Political Science (in addition to seven courses in Business Law): PS 301, National Government; PS 302, State and Local Government; PS 303, Municipal Government; PS 401, International Relations; PS 402, Comparative Governments [Europe]; PS 403, Comparative Governments [Latin America]; PS 404, 405, and 406, Seminar in Political Science; PS 411, Advanced American Government; and PS 412, Practical Legislation. (Note: Catalogs for years during this period refer to other listings for political science in addition to those shown specifically, so possibly introductory courses-100-level or equivalent-were listed in a separate section, as implied by listing only courses numbered 300-level and above in the pages from which these data were drawn.)
A major change occurred in 1932 when the State System of Higher Education was established, accompanied by major reorganization of state-supported institutions. Programs and departments were shifted to the campuses that they were judged to best fit. For Political Science that meant the University at Eugene. Political Science at OSU became part of what was called "Lower Division," with course offerings reduced. In 1933-34, for example, three courses were taught: Modern Governments (American and European [a 3-term sequence]), Municipal Government, and International Organization and World Politics (a 3-term sequence), in addition to a three-term sequence taught with Economics and possibly other departments: SSc (Social Science) 101, 102, and 103, Background of Social Science. About 1937 a third faculty member was added, Dan Poling, who was assistant dean of men and half time in political science.
During this period any course additions had to be approved by the main political science department in the state, in Eugene, sometimes leading to creative efforts to justify teaching courses by relating them, for example, to agriculture or other topics that fit at the Oregon State Agricultural College. Despite these limits, the department in 1938-39 taught seven courses: PS 201, 202, 203: Modern Governments; PS 212, American National Government; PS 231, 232, 233: Current Affairs; and upper division PS 415, Municipal Government; PS 417, International Relations; PS 418, Latin-American Relations; and PS 419, Pacific Area Relations.
By 1943-44 the only course addition was PS 430, Public Service. After World War II the Department expanded to four persons in 1946, and by 1948-49 American National Government had become PS 201 and a new course, State and Local Governments, was added as PS 202. European Governments became PS 203.
A course added during the War and continuing later to serve the needs of military personnel and later returning veterans and other students was an important contributor of students for the Department: SSc (Social Science) 441, 442, and 443, International Politics and National Power, using as text Foundations of National Power, by a Princeton political scientist. The course continued until the 1960s. Later, during the 1960s through the early 1980s the "Great Decisions" program was a significant contributor to student enrollment.
Although the number of political science faculty increased somewhat in the ten years after World War II, the course offerings increased only slightly, primarily through expanding courses from one term to several-term sequences. By 1953-54 PS 201 had become PS 201 and 202, American National Government, and the "Public Service" course had become PS 431, 432, and 433, Public Administration. During the 1950s an enrollment of 50 students was considered a "large" class. In the 1960s and 1970s class sizes were much larger, with lower division classes over 100 being common. Professor McClenaghan remembers teaching 400 to 500 students in Milam Auditorium and other locations on campus.
After the War the Department was housed in a "temporary" building (one of the famous post-war "temporary" buildings), moved from the former Camp Adair, at the site of what is now the small park next to the parking lot between Ballard and Bexell Halls. The building was shared part of that time with the registrar's office and with the English and the History Departments. English had almost half of a u-shaped building and History and Political Science shared part of the rest. Quonset huts, including some at the site of the current Milam Auditorium, were used as classrooms for most political science courses. That temporary building served as the Department home until the late 1960s, when it moved to the second floor of Social Science Hall, sharing with the Dean's office and a large classroom that took the entire north end, in what later became the College of Liberal Arts advising offices. The Department moved to the entire third floor of Social Science Hall in 1975, when Geography moved to another location.
In January 1960, by action of the State Board of Higher Education, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences was established to replace the former Lower Division. Political Science became one of the departments where students could work toward a degree in either Humanities or Social Sciences. In 1966 the State Board approved the granting of undergraduate degrees in Political Science at OSU.
Beginning in 2011 as part of the strategic realignment of the College of Liberal Arts, the Political Science, Sociology and Economics Departments formed the School of Public Policy, which offers on campus and online undergraduate majors in Economics, Political Science, and Sociology, as well as an on campus Master in Public Policy and PhD in Public Policy programs. The School also offers undergraduate minors in Economics, Political Science, and Sociology as well as graduate minors in Political Science and Sociology.