Public Meeting Analysis
15% of course grade
For this assignment you will practice analyzing ways in which ideas about and approaches to environmental ethics are embedded in and inform public decision-making processes by attending a public meeting of your choice. You can attend and analyze any public meeting, but you must be able to justify why this meaning is relevant to this course and you must be able to discuss the environmental ethics concepts that are discussed or debated in the meeting.
You must attend the meeting in person, but the meeting can be anywhere and it can be about any level of public decision-making (neighborhood, municipal, state, federal, etc.). This assignment contributes to the Environmental Studies and Environmental Science program efforts to infuse civic engagement opportunities throughout the curricula through the Classroom-Community Connection initiative.
- Attend at least one public meeting. Students may attend a meeting in Eugene or another community. In-person attendance is required. Be sure to take detailed notes while at the meeting.
- Produce a 950-1200 word analysis of the substance and process of the public hearing as it relates to at least one course concept or argument made by one of the authors read in the course. Details are included below.
Meeting Analysis Requirements:
The meeting analysis should be produced in essay form, and it should include the following. You may respond to these requirements in any order. Focus on crafting a compelling essay rather than simply listing out answers to the prompts. While your essay should include some response to the following, the most important thing about the assignment is for you to fully immerse yourself in the experience of the meeting. Critically analyze this experience and be sure to write about what you find most important.
A brief summary of the organization/committee/commission and the relevant meeting topic(s). By brief I mean a paragraph of three to five sentences. You will need to do a bit of research for this. Describe the host organization’s authority as it relates to the meeting topic. That is, explain very concisely if the organization is advisory (such as a city committee), or if it is allowed to set policy, and if so, how. In other words, what, if any, legal structures support the activities of this commission, and how is it able to carry out its mission? You should be able to find this information online; if it is not readily available you can call the organization’s general information phone number and ask for help.
Most public meetings have multiple agenda items. You do not need to discuss all of the topics of the meeting unless they are relevant to your overall analysis. Focus on the topics that are most relevant to your essay.
- Discussion of what ideas about environmental ethics show up during the meeting.This may be challenging, as more likely than not people will not explicitly say “this is my idea about environmental ethics and why it is important to this meeting topic”. Here will be an opportunity to listen deeply and carefully. Consider all of the players, including the organization members, members of the public, staff, and others who may be speaking. This part of your analysis may be speculative, and that is perfectly fine, but be sure to explain why you are drawing the conclusions you are. For example, someone may talk about why a particular park should include more lawn, or should be treated with chemicals to keep mosquitoes away. It will be up to you to discern what sorts of ethical values that person might hold based on how they explain themselves and what course of action they advocate. Here would be a good point of the essay to refer to the readings class materials.
- Similarly, discuss what concepts of environmental ethics are being debated in whatever the meeting topic might be. For instance, you may attend an EWEB meeting at which people are debating increased utility fees to add more renewable energy sources for the community. Consider the sorts of ethical values and assumptions that influence how the issue is presented.
- Consider how the people in the room are involved and how decision-making is happening. You don’t need to respond to all of the following, but here are some prompts to help you focus: What kinds of people make up the official commission/committee/governing body? Who is there from ‘the public’? Who seems to be in charge, and how are they behaving toward the other people in the room? Is everyone being ‘heard’ equally, or are some people’s statements given more weight? How?
- You should include some reflection on your own reactions to both the topics and the process of the meeting. In your reflections make at least one suggestion for how the meeting issue and/or process might be better or differently addressed. Also, include anything you find important, interesting, compelling, confusing or problematic.
- Pictures, diagrams, maps, video, audio, etc. At least one of these must be included. It is up to you to decide which. You may focus on the soundscape of the meeting, or make a sketch, or diagram a concept, or take a picture, or include a map of one of the places discussed. I encourage you to include any and all visual elements that support your essay.
Your final product should be a complete, coherent essay with an easily identifiable main argument (thesis). Your essay should be written in complete paragraphs that connect with one another. Do not simply write short answers to the prompts. In other words, requirements 1-6 above should all be included, but it is up to you to structure your essay around a primary argument/thesis with supporting evidence.
Essays of fewer than 950 words or more than 1300 words (excluding references and title) will not be accepted. Take this word restriction seriously – no resubmits will be allowed.
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