Colorado College

GS 222 Senior Transitions: Waging Non-Violent Conflict


Course Description: Understanding conflict is a crucial life skill. Unbridled, poorly managed conflict plays a leading role in most social problems. Yet, suppressed conflict can be equally damaging – enabling dysfunctional, unjust or oppressive social structures to endure. In these situations, we need more conflict, but we must also manage it well. In healthy societies, conflict is an inevitable and part of positive change. This course brings practitioners and theoreticians to a seminar on producing positive conflict. In week one, students will study the principles and practicalities of non-violent conflict with one of the youth activists who helped topple the undemocratic regime of Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic.


Class Expectations:


  1. Class Participation – 50 %: Classes will consist of structured, focused class discussions. Unexplained absences count against you and 2 or more WILL result in failing the course. Final participation grades will depend on the quality (NOT necessarily the quantity) of your participation. You are encouraged to keep in mind the following common sense discussion guidelines:


  • Contributing to class discussions will help your grade, dominating class discussions will not! If you have already made a point in a discussion, please defer to those who have not yet had a chance to speak. You are expected to do the readings before class.
  • Be courteous and respect the opinions of the instructors and classmates.
  • Feel free to challenge my arguments or those of your classmates. There is no political litmus test. Disagree, but be constructive!
  • Please do not change the discussion topic until you are sure that your classmates no longer have something to say on the current topic.
  • If there is something you do not understand, please bring it up.  Chances are that if you are confused on an issue, a good number of your classmates are confused as well.


Grading criteria for class participation will be as follows:


Failing the course:

  • No or little participation and little indication that you’ve done or understood the readings before class;
  • disrespect for classmates, the professor, speakers;
  • ;unwillingness to engage the material seriously;
  • two or more unexplained absences.


B Range/Low Pass: Occasional participation and moderate indication that you’ve done the readings before class.


A Range/High Pass: frequent, courteous participation and clear indication that you have kept up with the readings


  1. Project and Presentations– 50%:
  • Students on the pass-fail track are to work with 3-4 additional students on a researched case study detailing a particular mass resistance movement.
  • Students on a grade track are to write the paper themselves. I will grade on a curve—meaning only the top 33% of individual papers will receive a grade in the A range. This is to protect the course and its format against the charge that it is not rigorous.


I will fail individual students within a group if the majority of the rest of the group complains they did not contribute to the final product. Sorry, in this class, freeriding will be punished.


Group and individual papers must contain an analytical response to the themes of the course as well as historical/descriptive account of the movement. You may choose a failed movement or a successful movement; and you can choose a violent movement or a non-violent one. The analytical task is to explain how that story demonstrates or refutes some of the major themes of the class. For example, a case study on the violent WWII French resistance movement should evaluate whether or not the movement was successful and the costs and benefits of its violent approach. In short, strategic nonviolent conflict is the subject, not the dogma of the course!


Your group will write an original, fully documented 12-18 page paper (notes and bibliography) making your argument. In addition to the paper, your group will present its findings to class the final week.




Course Moderator/Instructor:


John Gould, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Political Science. John will teach the first week, provide continuity to the course, keep attendance, assess presentations and research projects and give final grades.


Visiting Instructors:
Srdja Popovic/Slobodan Djinovic, CANVAS,Belgrade, Serbia. Co-organizers of OTPOR– the student-ledgroup that helped force Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to step down from power. CANVAS operated around the world, training non-violent conflict activists in the field in the principles and practice of strategic nonviolence.Popovic has served in a number of high profile roles in Serbian politics and business, including work as advisor to late Serbian Prime Minister ZoranDjindjic. Djinovic is Serbia’s most prominent internet entrepreneur.