Service requirement doesn?t benefit students

The ranks of campus volunteers could soon swell, thanks to a proposal from ASUU and the Bennion Community Service Center to make community service a requirement for graduation. On the other hand, volunteer might be the wrong word.

The additional requirement would not include any coursework, but would require students to participate in an internship, service learning course, LEAP or student teaching prior to graduation. Students should take advantage of these programs, and the Bennion Center boasts an impressive number of ways to be involved in the community. However, volunteering should be just that: voluntary.

Mandating volunteer work for every U student will lower the quality of volunteers and cheapen the value of volunteer work. Students who already volunteer do it because they want to do it. A flood of unwilling volunteers will not only lower the quality of work done, but go against the principle of volunteering. You can’t force someone to volunteer and still call it volunteering. Students who are forced into the programs will complete the task begrudgingly.

Aside from how questionable the value of required, non-altruistic volunteer work is in the first place, pushing all students through these programs devalues their worth for students who would otherwise choose to volunteer. If every student graduates with an internship, then students now have to complete two internships to stand out. If every student graduates with noteworthy service, then why should graduate schools or employers value that service? Students’ own motivation to complete these programs is what gives them worth. Requiring them makes them common and cheap.

Some will defend the fact that students would benefit from the real-world experience that service learning courses, internships and so on provide. It is true, but that doesn’t mean that experience should be pushed on everybody. Every student with a job gets real-world experience, and those who want to sharpen their skills with service will do it themselves. The truth is such a requirement, by drastically raising the number of student “volunteers,” would look great for the U on paper, but it wouldn’t benefit students.

The proposal is still in its early stages. To the credit of its proponents, they are conducting a student survey and forming a committee of 30 academics to gauge support and provide feedback. Hopefully the committee and student body will see that beyond the good intentions of the proposal, it is just another requirement to pile on students without reason.

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