Susan P. Liebell Ph.D

Associate Professor
Discipline Taught: Political Science
Office: Barbelin Hall, Room 205
Phone: 610.660.1919
Fax: 610.660.1284

Curriculum Vitae (CV)


  • M.A. and Ph.D., The University of Chicago
  • B.A., Queens College of the City University of New York

Professional Experience

Susan P. Liebell joined the faculty of Saint Joseph’s University in Fall 2003. Dr. Liebell’s major fields of study are the history of political thought, environmental politics, and constitutionalism. She is particularly interested in public law, American political thought, and green political theory. Dr. Liebell’s research and courses connect political theory and current political issues. She maintains that studying debates about rights, justice, or representation in the 17th and 18th century help us better understand current debates concerning environmental degradation, gun rights and gun control, and toleration in the 21st century. In addition to courses in political theory, Dr. Liebell teaches courses in public law, film, environmental politics, and directs the Philadelphia Area Internship Program.

Her book, Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship examines the controversy over creationism and Intelligent Design in Dover, Pennsylvania. She asks that we look at fights over science education as a challenges to democratic citizenship rather than religion that the Constitution excludes from the science classroom. Americans miss the mark if they ask “is it tolerable in a multi-faith society to mention Intelligent Design in a public school?” Defending against religion depends upon a constitutional ‘wall of separation’ between religion and the state. Yet such an approach neglects the substance of a liberal political identity reinforced by public education. A more promising strategy suggests that the teaching evolution is essential to liberal democratic practice and values. Courts and contemporary political theorists lack an effective defense of science education or even an effective vocabulary to frame the debate. This book supplies a discourse that advocates teaching science rather than explaining why Intelligent Design should be excluded as religion. Because science is a key component of modern liberalism, liberals can and should explicitly justify science education generally and the teaching of evolution specifically as crucial to three aspects of the liberal person: political citizenship, economic fitness, and moral choice. 

Courses Taught

POL 150FY Law, Student Liberties, and the Supreme Court (First Year Seminar) syllabus This freshman seminar explores student liberties -- freedom of speech, religion, press, privacy -- and how they are often balanced with the need to maintain order in school settings.  We will look at the right of students to wear arm bands to protest a war, wear long hari, hang signs that say BONG HiTS 4 JESUS, stay at school pregnant, receive corporal (physical) punishment, etc.  We will also look at classic cases of race (e.g. racial segregation of elementary children), gender (e.g. Title 9), and discrimination against gays and lesbians.  In each case, the Supreme Court must explain why and how the Constitution protects (or does not protect) the right of the individual or the power of the state.  We will carefully read Supreme Court opinions and learn to brief (write summaries of the logic of) cases in order to explore how the Court reasons and argues for a particular interpretation of the Constitution.  Once we have established the fundamentals of reading cases, I will ask you to assess the Court’s reasoning?  Do you agree, for example, that students should be forced to salute the American flag even if their religion forbids it?

The highlight of the course will be a moot court.  We will argue two cases that are currently before the Supreme Court.  Students will research and present the issues as justices and attorneys.  We will use the moot courts to practice research, writing, and argument skills as well as to deepen our understanding of the law.

POL 117 Introduction to Political Thought syllabus

American Government and Politics Courses

POL 311 Constitutional Law: Civil Rights & Liberties (writing intensive course) syllabus This course acquaints you with the evolving opinions and doctrines of the United States Supreme Court that focus on the civil liberties of individuals and groups. The course and discussions will emphasize lines of cases with particular relevance to today's political controversies: the civil liberties of the post-September 11th detainees, the use of secret courts, same-sex marriage, and abortion. Thus, you will be encouraged to apply your historical understanding of court doctrine to current controversies in the law in your papers, briefs, and class comments.

POL 312 Law and Social Change (writing intensive course )syllabus Can courts effectively generate social change? What are the advantages and limits of using the law to effect social change? This class uses cases and case studies to examine the relationship between law and society. In the last fifty years, groups attempting to affect social change have turned to the courts as an effective source of authority when they find themselves disadvantaged by the larger political system. To what extent has this approach been successful? While constitutional law emphasizes the logic of the opinion, this course will look beyond the decisions of the Supreme Court focusing instead on the implementation process and the actions of lower courts in interpreting the Supreme Court’s decisions. We will look at problems of implementation, the actual benefits received by affected parties, and the relationship between the federal government, the states, and public opinion. Case studies will include: school integration, abortion, pay equity for women, death penalty, and single-sex unions and marriage.

POL 328 Environmental Politics in America (writing intensive course) syllabus This course analyzes environmental politics in the United States through a careful examination of institutions. We begin by debating the "proper" relationship between humans and the natural world considering the meaning of terms like environmentalism, conservationism, preservationism, deep ecology, eco-racism, and eco-feminism. We examine the rise of environmentalism in America, moving from the progressive conservationism of Teddy Roosevelt through the environmentalism of Earth Day and the 1970s to the present era. The course uses recent works in political science to establish the actors in environmental decision-making and implementation as we consider federalism and state environmental policy, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, markets and free trade, the Presidency, Congress, the Bureaucracy, and the Courts.

Political Thought Courses

POL 302 Modern Political Thought writing intensive course syllabus This course traces the development of liberal democratic government from the establishment of dependence on the people for legitimate power (Machiavelli) and political equality (Hobbes) to the development of representation and limited government (Locke, Montesquieu, Hume). We will explore the expansion of liberal rights (Wollestonecraft, Mill, Rawls) and critiques of liberal rights (Rousseau, Burke, Marx, Pateman, MacIntyre).

POL 303 American Political Thought syllabus This course introduces students to classic texts in American Political Thought (the revolution, constitutional convention, Lincoln-Douglas debates) by linking them to other important intellectual and political movements (suffrage, abolition, and civil rights). We explore the idea of two "foundings": the forging of the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution in the eighteenth century and the community oriented religious movements of the 17th century. How can we compare the principles in discourses or assertions of citizenship in these various movements? How do they contribute to our political vocabulary today? 

POL 305 Film, Politics & Ideology syllabus How do ideologies -- bodies of thought -- affect individuals, social movements, nations, institutions, and groups?  What are the normative implications?  This courses examines major ideological terms in political theory, political science, and the social sciences through the study of primary texts, scholarly articles, and films.  We use films from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Russia, and the United States to place each ideology in historical, political, and/or economic context. Students are expected to master the complexities of the ideologies in historical context as well as  evaluate ideologies that have shaped national and international politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries based on four concepts of justice, three concepts of equality, and Arendt’s notion of guilt and responsibility. 

POL 407 Seminar on Theories of Justice in the 21st Century syllabus This political theory seminar examines some of the major theories of justice available to political theorists in the 21st century. We begin with an in depth reading of the work that has defined justice in the 20th and 21st centuries: John Rawls? A Theory of Justice. We will also read selections from Rawls? Political Liberalism and his work on international justice, The Law of Peoples. In order to consider alternative theories of justice and criticisms of Rawls, we will read classic critical commentaries in the form of articles and book chapters from Michael Walzer, Michael Sandel, Alistair MacIntyre, Ronald Dworkin, Susan Okin, Robert Nozick, Brian Barry, Amartya Sen, and James Fishkin.


Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship, Routledge Press, July 2013.

“Rethinking Dover : Religion, Science, and the Values of Democratic Citizenship.” Politics & Religion, August 2012, Vol. 5; No. 3.

“The Text and Context of “Enough and as Good”: John Locke as the Foundation of an Environmental Liberalism.” Polity, April 2011; Vol. 43; No. 2.

“Lockean Switching: Imagination and the Production of Principles of Toleration.” Perspectives on Politics, December 2009; Vol. 7; No. 4, 823-836.

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