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Starting this academic year, the politics department will be allowing politics majors to pursue a departmental track in American ideas and institutions (AIIP). The program is in collaboration with the James Madison Program.

“[AIIP] will cut across American politics and political theory and incorporate something we don’t have as an actual field, which is public and constitutional law,” said Nolan McCarty, chair of the Department of Politics at the University.

Despite the track’s collaboration with the James Madison Program — often considered a conservative organization — the track is not conservative itself. The JMP will mostly be providing financial resources, and the major course decisions will be coming through a separate committee, according to McCarty.

Bradford Wilson, executive director of the James Madison Program, added that JMP is willing not only to lend its support in financial matters but also to make sure that track-related courses can be provided on a regular basis, even if the usual professor goes on sabbatical.

“So we’ll be out there with a tin cup trying to raise funds so that the department can bring in scholars with expertise in these fields as needed that will teach these courses that will not otherwise get taught,” Wilson said.

During the development of the curriculum, JMP mainly contributed its core intellectual interests, rather than its beliefs, according to those involved.

“[The Madison Program] has a mission of contributing to the public law, constitutionalism, emphasis of the [politics] program at Princeton, so this [track] is just the evolution of that,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, JMP proposed the track to the department as a way to bridge constitutional thought and public law. Previously, no subfield or track had existed for either of those topics.

“For some students, the public law courses could sometimes be an awkward fit within the larger American politics track, and this program of study might feel more natural to some and create a more coherent set of classes and independent research that I hope some students will value,” Professor of Politics Keith Whittington said in an email.

To complete the track, students will have to take five courses from four areas: the executive branch; the legislative branch; the Constitution and the courts; and American political, legal, and constitutional thought.

“Our principles were, we wanted students to know about the Constitution, we wanted them to know something about American political thought, and we wanted them to know how the Constitution works,” McCarty said. “So coming up with the three branches was basically reading the Constitution, Articles 1 through 3.”

Talk for the new track began in fall of 2015 when members of the JMP started discussing a potential certificate, Wilson said.

The University approved the program this spring, and the politics department introduced the track to the newly declared politics majors earlier last month.

“I think it comes at a really good time in the history of the country to have a program this focused on core issues of American politics and political identity at a time where the politics of this country are so challenging,” McCarty said.

Robert George, the director of the James Madison Program and the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, is currently the faculty advisor for the program. George did not respond to requests for comment.

Current juniors can declare the track by Feb. 1 of this year.

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