Fall Semester, 1999
Coordinator: Dr. Jim Dalton

Office: Clare Center, 2nd floor
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 8:30-9:30
Wednesday 8:30-11:30 and by appointment
Phone: 783-4235 (office)

E-mail: dalton (


    The Foundations Sequence is a two-semester course that is taken sequentially by first-year students. It is designed to introduce them to intellectual and academic life by engaging students and faculty in the exploration of selected texts, (written, visual, musical, and dramatic), chosen from a variety of cultural milieu and expressing a variety of perspectives. Exploration of these texts will stimulate critical analysis of what it is to be human: to be living in a fragile physical world, in a diverse society and a complex network of societies, and to enter into various world views, or ways of making sense of the world. The course uses important classic and contemporary texts to illuminate questions which are important to first-year students and which will help them make some connections between their experience and the traditions created by thinkers and artists of the past and present.

    A sense of community is an essential element of Siena's identity, and this course grounds that sense of community in the proper mission of a leiberal arts college, empowering students to become sophisticated lifelong learners able to participate intelligently in a complex civic life.


Assorted photocopied material (Reader, class handouts).

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. Vintage Contemporaries. NY: Vintage Books, 1991.

Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. Second Edition. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Hogan, Linda. Solar Storms. Scribner Paperback Fiction. NY: Simon & Shuster, 1995.

Plato. The Trial and Death of Socrates. Trans. By G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1975.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Basic Political Writings. Trans. By Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987.


A. All students will be required to have computer accounts on Siena's Vax computer and will be expected to be able to utilize electronic mail and word processing. We will also be utilizing the Word Wide Web (WWW) during the course of the semester for learning and research. The Web will be discussed and used both inside and outside of classes.

B. During the course of the semester there will be no tests or examinations. Grades will be based on writing, group projects, the creative arts project and class participation. Class participation includes raising questions in class, contributing comments to class discussions, discussing issues and questions with me in my office, and communicating with me via e-mail.

C. Response papers: Since learning also takes place outside of the classroom, each student will be expected to write two response papers to events outside of class. The first of these will be due by Thursday, October 28, 1999 and the second by Tuesday, December 7, 1999. The coordinator should approve the events in advance. These response papers will be from one to two pages in length typewritten or printed. They will briefly describe the event and relate it to one of the themes of the semester (nature/environment, society, the person).

D. Creative Arts project: Education is aimed, not only at developing the intellect, but also at forming the imagination. Each student, therefore, will be expected to utilize the creative arts (painting, poetry, collage, photography, theater, dance, music, architecture, film, performance art, etc.) to reflect on one of the themes of the semester (nature/environment, society, the person). If the student is artistically inclined, he or she may wish to produce a work of art with commentary. If not so inclined the student will observe a work of art by a known artist or group of artists and comment upon it and its relationship to a theme or themes of the semester. This assignment will be due on December 7.

E. Students will be formed into groups early in the semester. These groups will be assigned various tasks by the coordinator as the semester proceeds.

F. Students in the Foundations Sequence are required to produce 12 pages of formal multi-draft writing. The coordinator will assign writing assignments to fulfill this requirement.

G. Because of the importance of class participation students should attend class regularly. Any more than three absences will have a negative impact on a student's semester grade.

H. The coordinator presupposes that every student will do his or her own work according to accepted academic standards. Any student who copies someone else's work or is any other way guilty of cheating or plagiarism will be subject to the penalties outlined in the Siena College Catalog statement on "Academic Integrity." At a minimum, the student will receive a grade of "F" for the course.

I. A field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City is scheduled for Saturday, October 23. All students are expected to attend.


I. My touchstone grade is a "C". This grade is awarded for performance which is expected of all students in a particular course. It means that the student's work is "ok" (no significant problems or special promise). It is not a negative grade but reflects what can be expected of a typical student doing adequate work.

II. A "B" reflects my judgment that the student's work is better than what I would expect from my "typical" student. The student's work is "good" and shows promise.

III. An "A" exhibits outstanding work or, better put, work that "stands out" from typical students in a course such as this. It displays characteristics such as original thinking, a firm grasp of materials and an ability to critique these materials. It is attainable, not only by students who are "brilliant" but by any student who works hard and is engaged with the materials of the course. It also reflects an ability to communicate clearly and thoughtfully.

IV. A "D" is given to communicate to a student that there are "problems" with the student's work. Such problems might be in communication or understanding of course materials and could arise due to inadequate study habits, poor preparation, or social difficulties. It is important for the student to locate the source of these problems. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss this grade with the coordinator.

V. An "F" is my "do it over again" grade. It means that there are so many problems that we (the student and I) need to go back to the beginning of the process and walk our way through it again.

Course Outline

Please Note: This syllabus admits of additions and deletions as determined by demands of the course.

Unit I: The Foundations Course

  1. Exploring foundations and communities.
  2. Reviewing the business of the course.
  3. Storms, skies and the themes of the semester.
    Reading: Syllabus and course introductory materials.
                  Hogan, Solar Storms.

Unit 2: Nature

  1. Nature and Human Responsibility.
    Reading: St. Francis, "The Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (1-2)
    Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons" (3-8)
    Film: "A River Runs Through It."
  2. Nature and the Environment in crisis.
    Reading: Union of Concerned Scientists, "The Global Environmental
                  Crisis: Causes, Connections, and Solutions" (9-14)
  3. Environmental themes: Biodiversity, Energy Use/Air Pollution, Environmental (Green) Accounting, Food Supplies/Population Pressure, Global Warming, Ozone Layer/CFC Effects.

    First Formal Writing Assignment: The Problem of the Environment.

Unit 3: Humans in Society: how and why?

  1. The origins of society
    Reading: Rousseau, "On the Social Contract" (141-153), "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality" (60-81).

  2. The good society
    Reading: Rousseau "Letter to the Republic of Geneva" (25-32).

Unit 4: Society and "McDonaldization."

  1. Efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control.
    Reading: Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society (15-35).
    Video: "Clockwork"
               "Headwaters: Fast Food Women"
  2. Justice and injustice in America.
    Reading: Jonathan Kozol, "Looking Backward" & "Life on the Mississippi" (70-108)
    Video: "Skin Deep"
               "Jonathan Kozol: Children in Schools"

Unit 5: The Person and Society

  1. A child grows up in Chicago.
    Reading: Cisneros The House On Mango Street.

    Second Formal Writing Assignment: My House On My Street
  2. Some reflections on individualism.
    Video: "Voices and Visions: Emily Dickinson"
    Film: "Citizen Kane"
  3. Social and psychological forces in personal development.
    Reading: Sigmund Freud, "Civilization and its Discontents" (36-39)
                  Abraham H. Maslow, "Motivation and Personality" (40-52)
  4. The Individual and Society: an ancient meditation.
    Reading: Plato, "Crito" (43-54)
  5. The Person in literature.
    Reading: Hogan, Solar Storms
                  Cisneros The House On Mango Street.

"The moon--how big and round and red and bright!
Children, to whom does it belong tonight?"

"To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable,
but to be certain is to be ridiculous."
Chinese Proverb

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old;
seek what they sought."

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."
John Muir

This page is maintained by Jim Dalton.                 Last updated on September 6, 1999

This is an unofficial Siena College Webpage - The ideas and content expressed on this page are not necessarily those of the college.