OF THE GOVERNOR'S CALL TO SERVICE
07/16/1999: Governor Asks Colleges to Require Community
Submitted by: Erika Freihage
Friday, July 16, 1999
Los Angeles Times
Governor Asks Colleges to Require Community Service
By KENNETH R. WEISS, Times Education Writer
SAN FRANCISCO--Gov. Gray Davis on Thursday formally asked California's
state colleges and universities to make community service a graduation
requirement, noting that it seems a modest request for students
who benefit from a taxpayer-subsidized education to give something
back to the community.
In letters to higher-education leaders, Davis urged the University
of California, California State University and community colleges
to help "our students to understand, as generations before
them did, the importance of contributing to their community."
"A service ethic should be taught and reinforced as a lasting
value in California," Davis said. Davis dispatched Gary Hart,
his education secretary, to deliver the message in person to the
UC Board of Regents on Thursday and lend some urgency to a faculty
review of his proposal.
Hart also sketched a few new details of the governor's idea, suggesting
that the public service requirements be "consistent" among
California's three systems of higher education and that they be
limited to students working toward a four-year bachelor's degree.
For the most part, he left the proposal vague, deferring to the
faculty, which traditionally has the role of arranging curricula
and setting graduation requirements. Davis' idea was warmly received
by the regents.
Sherry L. Lansing, a recent Davis appointee to the board, noted
that a community service requirement at her stepson's high school
had a tremendous influence on the teenager.
"I'd be lying if I said that he was looking forward to the
120 hours of community service," she said. But over the months,
she said, she noticed that he seemed to benefit as much as those
Regent Velma Montoya raised a concern about adding to the burden
of poor students, who are working their way through college. Is
it right, she asked, to charge students to participate in public
service? "I'm hoping that they don't have to work at McDonald's
to pay for a course on community service," she said.
Such community service programs are flourishing on college campuses
in California and across the nation. Many of the programs are tied
to classwork, to give students practical, hands-on experiences related
to their studies. But only a few campuses, such as Cal State Monterey
Bay, make such service mandatory. Davis' proposal for compulsory
volunteerism has kicked up some controversy since he unveiled it
Some college officials wonder how they can possibly coordinate
significant, meaningful volunteer jobs for the more than 1 million
students attending the state's public colleges and universities.
They also worry that such a graduation requirement will slow the
progress of students at a time when universities want students to
graduate more quickly to make room for a 500,000-student surge in
enrollment over the next half dozen years.
Furthermore, a recent study by the American Psychological Society
found that students who are forced to volunteer--especially those
who are not willing or ready--will probably be put off from volunteering
later in life. Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) said he and other
lawmakers are solidly behind Davis' proposal.