ARE YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN CIVIC SERVICE AND CHARITY WORK?
The editors also responded to these questions:
Is Generation X as apathetic as its stereotype?
Are Republicans on campus afraid to identify themselves for fear of being abused?
Are young people espousing libertarian ideas?
Has the campaign been the major story in college papers? If not, what has been?
A question from Josh Grant of Wilbur, WA:
I note that at some small usually religious affiliated colleges (I'm more familiar with some of the Jesuit Colleges) there is a great emphasis on service to others at least that's the PR. Are generation X students really interested in participating in service... or charitable activities while in College? Are the larger state supported colleges giving this any real emphasis?
Our panel of editors responds:
Students at Stanford are into public service in a big way. A strong community service background is practically a requirement for admission. And students' dedication to service doesn't wane when they come to the University. About 70 percent of undergraduates are involved in public service. The on-campus Haas Center for Public Service helps more than 3,000 students annually in their local, national, and international voluntary efforts. Whether it's tutoring East Palo Alto school children or helping immigrants learn to read, the Haas Center is bound to offer it as a volunteer opportunity. Community service has even been incorporated into Stanford's curriculum the freshman English requirement can be fulfilled by taking a writing class that focuses on community service.
It's reassuring that so many students are involved in public service. This involvement goes a long way toward combating the apathetic, Gen X stereotype. But even more important, it brings politics down to a real-world level. It's much more meaningful to see the effects of poverty first-hand than to hear a speech by Bob Dole or Bill Clinton.
I would say that Princeton students (I don't think I am qualified in any way to speak for university students in general) are definitely interested in community service -- the Student Volunteers Council is by far the most popular activity on campus. I think that the reason for this is largely a pragmatic one -- the stereotypical self-absorbed, self-motivated Princeton student budgets only a certain amount of time a day to participate in extracurriculars, and the SVC offers a rich variety of projects that can fit in anyone's schedule with very little effort.
A much less cynical reading of the success of the SVC, however, would definitely credit the student body with humanitarian impulses. I think students here feel blessed by the opportunities life has granted them, and want to give some of that back to those who have not been so fortunate. I would like to think that this feeling is characteristic of university students in general, at private as well as state-supported schools.
At William and Mary, public service can be a requirement, a choice or both. All fraternities and sororities must choose a charity to support and many religious groups regularly participate in activities like Habitat for Humanity.
I am always surprised at how often people are really volunteering. A local shelter for battered women in Williamsburg recently named a male College student as one of their best volunteers, and a large number of students participate in programs for local children on Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Green and Gold Christmas is an annual event at William and Mary for underprivileged children to come to the College and get treated to little gifts and games during the holidays.
True, college is a time when many young people tend to look inward and focus on themselves rather than the larger community, but when volunteering requires only a walk across campus or one Saturday morning, you too would be surprised at how many students actually turn out.
At least one positive aspect to the consequences of conformity is that when one person volunteers, they usually bring someone along.
Community service is popular at Reed. 300 out of our 1100 students participate in some sort of community service regularly -- two thirds of those are women.
The size of UW-Madison (with graduate and undergraduate enrollment together at about 40,000) makes it difficult to see students at work in service activities. If you look more closely, however, you will find a great number of students taking part in some type of volunteer or charitable activity. Recently the Cardinal took such a look and began running a weekly series of feature stories about a particular group or individual involved in volunteer activities.
While service organizations and charity work must compete with many other activities in a student's life, the growth of campus student organizations-many of them service oriented-have helped to increase such activity. Support from the administration, particularly the Dean of Students Office has aided the success of student volunteer and service opportunities.
Questions asked in this forum:
- Do today's college students have the patience or the motivation to read about the candidates or the issues and to stay informed.?
- Are Republicans on campus afraid to identify themselves for fear of being abused?
- Are young people espousing libertarian ideas?
- Is the idea of civic service popular on today's college campuses?
- Has the campaign been the major story in college papers? If not, what has been?