SPCM 3310: Rhetoric of Social Protest

SPCM 3310: Rhetoric of Social Protest

SCM 460: Public Advocacy

T/Th 1:00-2:15, LAB 104/469

Dr. Atkins-Sayre

Fall 2009

Instructor information:

Office: LAB 475

Phone: 601-266-4370


Web site: http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~w739132/

Facebook group: SCM 460

Office Hours: M-Th 11-12 and by appointment

Required Texts:

  • Persuasion and Social Movements (5th ed.; 2007), by Charles J. Stewart, Craig Allen Smith, and Robert E. Denton. Waveland Press.
  • Readings available in class and on the course web site

Course description:

At the heart of change in society is the social protest movement. It is here that ideas are shaped, voiced, and possibly believed, followed, and refuted. This course aims to explain the rhetoric that surrounds social protest—both from the protestors and the resisters. More specifically, we will define the social movement, explain its development, and look at the specific rhetorical strategies that movements generally employ. By the end of the course, you should be familiar with several specific social movements and have a better understanding of the rhetorical construction of social protest.

Course objectives:

  • Define a social movement and identify the primary characteristics of the rhetorical strategies of a social movement.
  • Explain contemporary and historical social movement rhetoric using rhetorical concepts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to develop and focus on one topic in writing assignments and present ideas in an organized, logical and coherent form.
  • Demonstrate the ability to develop and focus on one topic in speaking assignments and present ideas in an organized, logical and coherent form.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use Standard English grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage.

Course requirements:

Detailed information about each assignment will be available on the course web site. Below you will find preliminary information about the projects that you will undertake this semester.

Movement case study:

We will discuss a variety of social movements throughout the course. The purpose of this project is to allow you to focus in on one specific social movement in order to get a better understanding of the material. You should choose an issue that interests you, as you will be working with that topic throughout the semester. Earn an extra day of writing for any of these papers by visiting the Writing Center at least 2 days prior to the due date (and asking the center to send verification).

Preliminary proposal (2-3 pgs.)5%

This brief paper will justify your project, explaining how the proposed subject meets the definition of a social movement, making preliminary claims about the rhetorical significance of the movement, and including preliminary research findings.

Historical context and lit. review (6-7 pgs.)10%

This paper will outline the historical events that led up to the movement and briefly explain the evolution of the movement. Relevant scholarly literature will also be reviewed.

Presentation 10%

This presentation (time limit TBA) will focus on introducing the audience to the subject of your project, making preliminary claims about the rhetorical strategies of the movement in preparation for your written analysis. These presentations will happen throughout the semester. Students will sign up for speaking dates. A visit to the Speaking Center for a run-through of the speech at least one day prior to your assigned speaking date is required as part of your grade. A speaking outline is required to be turned in 24 hours before you speak.

Final rhetorical analysis (12-14 pgs.)25%

Pulling together previous writings and further analyzing the movement using rhetorical concepts, this final paper will draw conclusions about the rhetorical strategies of the movement being studied.

Midterm exam20%

This short answer and essay exam will cover chapter 1-7.

Final exam20%

This short answer and essay exam will cover chapters 8-14 as well as any rhetorical concepts that are particularly significant (as identified in class).


Participating in class discussions, weekly online discussions (via Facebook), and in- and out-of-class-assignments.

Capstone requirements (for seniors who have signed up for 1 hour of SCM 492):

In addition to the above course requirements, those completing the capstone requirements will complete the following assignment:

Advisory speech60%

Imagine that you have been hired as a consultant to the social movement organization that you have studied. Create a presentation that provides communication advice to that organization, pulling from concepts studied in this class as well as at least one communication concept from another SCM course. These speeches will be given to the capstone group only and will happen on a date near the end of the semester (to be determined once the semester begins). A visit to the Speaking Center for a run-through of the speech at least one day prior to your assigned speaking date is required as part of your grade. A speaking outline is required to be turned in 2 days before you speak.

Written comprehensive exam25%

This will cover basic communication concepts and is designed to assess your overall understanding of fundamental communication concepts. This will be given with the regular final exam.


As part of your capstone, you are expected the take a leadership role in the course. Consequently, I will expect more participation in classroom discussion and online discussions.

Course policies:

1. Participation: I expect all individuals to participate in class discussions, assignments, and exercises. The course cannot succeed without that participation. Consequently, you should read the assigned materials on the assigned days and come to class ready to interact in discussion or activity. I also encourage you to participate in your class grade throughout the semester by keeping track of grades and making appointments with me if you are concerned.

2. Late work: All written assignments will be due at the beginning of class on the assigned day. Papers and exams will be considered late if received after that time. Late papers incur a penalty of one letter grade (10 points) per calendar day. Exams will only be allowed to be taken late if you have made prior arrangements with me.

3. Attendance: I expect you to be in class everyday and on time. Absences will affect your participation grade. It is your responsibility to find out what happened on all missed days. Any assignments will be due on the due date at the beginning of class regardless of your absence (unless we have reached an agreement).

4. Grievance procedure: If you are dissatisfied with a grade (after carefully reading instructor comments), you will need to submit a typed argument explaining why you disagree with the grade. The paper should specifically mention why you disagree with the grade and use support (textbook, class notes, etc.) where appropriate. This paper will need to be given to me within one week after receiving the grade. I will then read the argument and respond either in writing, via email, or in a meeting. Please note: I will not discuss individual grades in the classroom.

5. Classroom rules: Please turn all cell phones off upon entering this class. Please be on time to class; I often make announcements that you will need to hear. Please do not start to pack up your belongings early. Do not read newspapers, text message, etc., during class. In short, be considerate.

6. Computer proficiency: Students enrolled in this course must have Internet access available to them, including email and web page access, and have the basic knowledge needed to efficiently use these Internet technologies. All course assignments will be posted on the course web site. You will be responsible for retrieving documents (syllabus, review sheets, exam questions, etc.) from the course web site. Please become familiar with the web site early in the semester so that you know where to find the necessary information. Problems with computers or printers do not excuse you from meeting deadlines. Please note that failures of technology (e.g., “my computer crashed,” “the file won’t open,” “the lab printer was broken,” etc.) will not lead to an extension of the deadline. Please do all that you can (by backing up files, giving yourself plenty of time to print, having back-up plans, etc.) to prevent these problems.

7. Academic Honesty

From the 2008-2009 Southern Miss Undergraduate Bulletin:

Plagiarism is scholarly theft, and it is defined as the unacknowledged use of secondary sources. More specifically, any written or oral presentation in which the writer or speaker does not distinguish clearly between original and borrowed material constitutes plagiarism.

Because students, as scholars, must make frequent use of the concepts and facts developed by other scholars, plagiarism is not the mere use of another’s facts and ideas. However, it is plagiarism when students present the work of other scholars as if it were their own work.

Plagiarism is committed in a number of ways:

1. reproducing another author’s writing as if it were one’s own

2. paraphrasing another author’s work without citing the original

3. borrowing from another author’s ideas, even though those ideas are reworded, without giving credit

4. copying another author’s organization without giving credit

Plagiarism is a serious offense. An act of plagiarism may lead to a failing grade on the paper and in the course, as well as sanctions that may be imposed by the student judicial system.

Refer to the plagiarism tutorial on the Southern Miss libraries website (http://www.lib.usm.edu/research/plag/plagiarismtutorial.php) for more advice about avoiding plagiarism.

I reserve the right to use TurnItIn.com to verify the accuracy of a paper. I will occasionally ask for electronic copies of your papers.


If a student has a disability that qualifies under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders. Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies.

The University of Southern Mississippi
Office for Disability Accommodations
118 College Drive # 8586
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
Voice Telephone: (601) 266-5024 or (228) 214-3232 Fax: (601) 266-6035
Individuals with hearing impairments can contact ODA using the Mississippi Relay Service at 1-800-582-2233 (TTY) or email Suzy Hebert at .

Course Grading

The following grading scale will be used:

90 and above=A80--89=B70--79=C60--69=D59 or less=F

Support for Writing and Speaking:

Students at The University of Southern Mississippi have access to individualized assistance with writing and speaking assignments for any course through the University’s Writing Center and Speaking Center. The centers offer personalized assistance at any stage of the writing or speaking process, including brainstorming for topic ideas, developing an outline, conducting research, or learning proofreading or presentation skills. The Speaking Center also offers practice rooms for recording presentations and working with delivery aids (PowerPoint and Internet access are available). The centers are centrally located in Cook Library on the Hattiesburg campus (first floor just past Starbucks). For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (Hattiesburg Writing Center: 601-266-4821; Hattiesburg Speaking Center: 601-266-4965), come by, visit online (www.usm.edu/writingcenter or www.usm.edu/speakingcenter) or join us on Facebook (USM Writing Center or Southern Miss Speaking Center).

Tentative Daily Schedule

PSM refers to Persuasion and Social Movements, by Stewart, Smith, and Denton.

All other readings are provided in class or on the course web site.

Date / Topic / Reading
Th, August 20 / Introduction to course / Syllabus
T, August 25 / Rhetorical criticism overview / Campbell and Huxman, chap. 1
Th, August 27 / Overview, cont’d. and descriptive analysis / Campbell and Huxman, chap. 2
T, September 1 / Descriptive analysis, cont’d. / Chavez speech (web site)
Th, September 3 / Introduction to social movement studies / Chap. 1 PSM
T, September 8 / Intro to SM, cont’d.
Th, September 10 / SM as interpretive systems / Chap. 2 PSM
T, September 15 / Persuasive functions of SMs / Chap. 3 PSM
Th, September 17 / Pers. functions, cont’d.,
Project proposal due / Stanton speech (web site)
T, September 22 / Stages of SMs / Chap. 4 PSM
Th, September 24 / Leadership in SMs / Chap. 5 PSM
T, September 29 / Personal needs and SMs
Last day to drop without penalty: Wed, Sept. 30 / Chap. 6 PSM
Th, October 1 / Language and SMs / Chap. 7 PSM
T, October 6 / Language, cont’d / Goodbye to All That (web site), your examples
Th, October 8 / Fall break / No class
T, October 13 / Midterm / Chapters 1-7 and additional readings
Th, October 15 / Political argument in SMs / Chap. 8 PSM
T, October 20 / Argument, cont’d.
Historical/lit review papers due / Solomon article, Malcolm X (web site)
Th, October 22 / Argument from narrative
Speech: / Chap. 9 PSM
T, October 27 / Argument from transcendence
Speech: / Chap. 10 PSM
Th, October 29 / Argument from conspiracy
Speech: / Chap. 11 PSM
T, November 3 / New approaches to SMs
Th, November 5 / Visual rhetoric and SMs
Speech: / DeLuca and Peeples (web site)
T, November 10 / Technology and SMs
Speech: / TBA
Th, November 12 / Attending NCA convention / work on projects—no class
T, November 17 / Violence and SMs
Speech: / Chap. 12 PSM
Th, November 19 / Terrorism and SMs
Speech: / Chap. 13 PSM
T, November 24 / Resisting SMs
Speech: / Chap. 14 PSM
Th, November 26 / Thanksgiving break / No class
T, December 1 / Resisting SM, cont’d
Th, December 3 / Discussion of final projects
Final papers due
Th, December 10 / Final exam / 1:30-4:00