Berkeleyan Masthead HomeSearchArchive

This Week's Stories

Improving Outreach

A Strategic Plan for Campus Diversity

Law Student's Argument Helps in Miranda Case

Century-Old Monument to the Big Game

Astronomers See New Planet's Shadow Cross A Distant Star

Asian-American 'Visibility' Is Not the Whole Story

New AVC for Capital Projects Lays Foundation

Outspoken Biochemist Died Nov.1

Blood Challenge Seeks To Get the Red Out

New West Campus Gateway Signage

The Magic of Japanese Animation Now Screening at PFA

Journalism School Wins Renewed Funding for Environmental Reporting

Hands Across the Americas

Tf Volunteerism is Mandated, Does it Change the Experience?

Regular Features


Campus Calendar


News Briefs


Staff Enrichment


If Volunteerism is Mandated, Does it Change the Experience

Campus Students, Faculty Weigh in on Pros and Cons of Community Service Requirement Proposed by Governor

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
Posted November 17, 1999

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn." These words of Benjamin Franklin may soon be familiar to UC undergraduates, who as early as next fall may be required to perform community service as part of their education.

This summer Gov. Gray Davis asked UC, California State University and the state's community colleges each to "develop a plan for adoption by the Regents that would establish a graduation requirement for community service."

The controversial proposal has stirred debate on campuses across the state. Berkeley's campus community joined the dialogue at a campus forum Nov. 11, where students, faculty and a representative from the governor's office aired practical and philosophical concerns, political background and research findings about the proposal.

The forum highlighted the difference between community service -- which Gov. Davis spoke of in his letter to California colleges and universities -- and service-learning, a teaching pedagogy that affords students a better understanding of academic content by applying their skills and knowledge to benefit society.

By sending thousands of well-intended students out into the community,"we can't be assured that the impact on the world will always be positive," cautioned Bob Spier, chairman of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate.

The director of Berkeley's Service-Learning Research and Development Center, Andy Furco, likewise alluded to "horror stories" about what happens when service-learning is not done well. He said the graduation requirement would need to be implemented carefully in order to provide a quality experience for students.

Studies conducted by Furco's center show service-learning is most successful when it's tied to what students are studying. Meaningful community experiences also offer mentoring for the student and an opportunity for reflection, Furco said.

Professor Fred Collignon, who co-chairs the Academic Senate's Committee on Service-Learning, said his committee -- though composed of faculty deeply committed to service-learning -- advised against the governor's proposal.

The committee said such a requirement might place an unfair burden on students who have to work part-time to support themselves and an "enormous administrative burden" on the university.

The faculty group questioned how such a requirement might impact the community, which would be asked to absorb thousands of student volunteers. Collignon also raised the "ideological inconsistency" of requiring people to volunteer.

UC Student Regent and Berkeley senior Michelle Pannor said she had talked to students at every UC campus. While most of them opposed the community service requirement, Pannor said it's "important not to just reject the whole proposal. The key is to create incentives," Pannor said.

Possible incentives might include loan forgiveness programs -- to help the growing number of students who are graduating with debt -- and a discount on the tuition fee when students are working in the community, she said.

Diana Fuentes-Michel, assistant secretary for higher education in the governor's Office of Education, said that two of the senators most involved in the initiative are "very anxious" to see the requirement in place before their terms in office end. The governor is open to input on the details, she said, but "wants a response by spring."



November 17 - 23, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 15)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail