State University, Fresno
Response to the CSU Academic Senate
Regarding AS 2471-99 Governors Proposed
Community Service Graduation Requirement
The following is a response to the CSU Academic Senate Resolution
2471-99 concerning Governor Gray Davis proposal to make community
service a graduation requirement for undergraduate students in California
public institutions of higher education. This response is consistent
with the Universitys "Vision for the 21st
Century" document and principles agreed upon by members of
the universitys Service-Learning Development Committee. These
There should not be a requirement of service for students,
but a range of opportunities and incentives which
encourage and foster their participation. The State of California,
the CSU System and the University should make every effort to create
the opportunities and incentives necessary for every student
to have at least one meaningful community service-learning experience
prior to graduation.
That there are a number of impressive community service-learning
programs already in place at California State University, Fresno
which can be built upon to engage even more students in service
which is personally, professionally and academically enriching.
That, whenever possible, service experiences should be intentionally
connected to student learning, as opposed to general volunteerism.
This moves students away from service which is not linked to the
curriculum towards more academically oriented service-learning,
which has equally weighted and intentional service and learning
To facilitate our response to Resolution AS 2471, the questions
have been regrouped into four categories which were developed by
faculty at San Francisco State University. These categories are:
program overview, liability, community issues, and institutional
Is the proposal clear in its intent in terms of the breadth
of the application of the proposed requirement across programs and
the timeline for its implementation?
The Governors proposal is clear in its intent. However, the
breadth of its application is not clear. Several questions arise
whenever the proposal is discussed, including: What definition of
"community service" will be used? Will there be a tie
to academics (service-learning)? Will there be a minimum number
of service hours required? What options will students have to fulfill
the requirement? Will there be allowances for students to waive
the requirement? Additionally, the implementation timeline has still
not been clearly communicated.
Incentives vs. Mandate
Do you agree with the statement in the May Academic Senate CSU
resolution that a service ethic is fostered better by providing
incentives and opportunities than by mandating service?
Yes. California State University, Fresno has committed, in our
"Vision for the 21st Century: A Plan for Excellence"
document, to working "toward integrating a significant service-learning
component into the educational experience of each student."
While it is our desire to engage every student in service-learning,
mandating community service is often counterproductive to many of
the benefits commonly achieved through service activities. For example,
fostering a ethic of service and civic engagement may be thwarted
by making service mandatory.
Other issues of concern with an overall mandate include:
- Costs to students, such as transportation and the potential
for time away from paid work supporting their educational and
- While there is significant need in our community which can be
addressed through service activities, quantity of need does not
always equate to the quality of placement opportunities. Students
must be properly screened, oriented, trained, supported and supervised
if they are to have a valuable community service learning experience.
This requires staffing resources which are not available to most
community based organizations or individual faculty members. In
addition, it is an unfortunate fact that many service opportunities
are primarily clerical or labor oriented, diminishing the opportunities
for higher education students to gain a meaningful learning experience.
- Some students are unprepared, unwilling, or even unqualified
to perform well in a community service setting. The ramifications
for the community organizations and those served by such students
is a serious consideration that must be weighed.
What would you foresee as benefits to students in the performance
of (service)? How and why could this enhance their learning?
Involvement in meaningful service activities can provide a number
of benefits, including: enhancing students self-esteem; increasing
leadership skills; improving career related skills; strengthening
students civic or service-ethic; greater knowledge community
resources and needs of special populations; and enhancing their
awareness and appreciation of diverse cultures. Research has proven,
however, that many of these benefits are diminished, if not eliminated,
when service is mandated (January 1999, Psychological Science).
Service-learning brings with it all the benefits of community service,
plus a new layer of benefits, such as: providing a practical setting
to apply and test classroom learning; increasing cognitive abilities,
such as critical thinking skills; and allowing for interdisciplinary
approaches to problem solving.
To what extent should community service be (or not be) credit
Credit should not be given merely for the activity of service.
Instead, academic credit should be awarded for the learning that
is gained and demonstrated from a service experience. For this reason,
credit would be much more appropriate if the service activity was
part of a course that utilized valid service-learning approaches.
Would this requirement be met in the lower division or upper
division years? How would you address transfer and articulation
issues with community colleges in your service area?
With appropriate preparation, service could be preformed at any
level of education. Ideally, students would be provided with a number
of opportunities throughout their academic careers. If the issue
is a service-learning course, articulation issues would most likely
be handled on a course-by-course basis through mechanisms already
Hours of Service
What limits, if any, should be attached to the terms "service"
and "community," assuming that a "community service
graduation requirement" should be multifaceted?
Providing broad definitions for these terms will allow each campus
greater flexibility and opportunities for student service activities.
The term "service" should be applied to any non-paid (hourly
or salary) work in a nonprofit or not-for profit endeavor that serves
a real need in the community. This could include work for a nonprofit
or not-for-profit organization, as well as independently planned
projects approved by a course instructor (service-learning) or community
service office (community service). In addition to direct service,
applied research and other non-direct services should be considered
as appropriate service. "Community" can be applied to
the general community, individual sub-groups, and even to the campus
community. Services provided should benefit a segment of the population
which is in need of service, not simply a campus academic department
or program office in need of extra clerical assistance.
What would be an appropriate amount of community service (e.g.
number of hours) to be required for graduation?
The quality of the experience, as exemplified by the integration
of service with academic learning, along with meaningfulness of
service, is more of an issue than a simple measure of hours. The
minimum number of hours required for a meaningful service-learning
assignment is a complicated issue. Some faculty members are able
to foster an outstanding learning experience with as little as 10
hours of service. However, because most faculty are not as adept
at fostering a valuable learning experience with this few hours,
it is recommended that the service assignment be closer to a minimum
of 30 hours. This is especially true if the requirement is not linked
to a traditional academic course. Expanding the hours of service
beyond a 30 hour requirement brings with it an increase in impact
felt by students who are already struggling to meet the many academic
and personal demands made upon them. This is especially true for
the many non-traditional student populations that make up the CSU
system, including a large number of older, employed individuals
responsible for supporting their family. In addition, faculty may
resist the need to include such a significant amount of class time
on one assignment within the body of an academic course. When both
student, faculty and community needs are considered an appropriate
amount of time might more realistically be assessed.
For courses on our campuses that have a service component, who
will evaluate the appropriateness of that service toward satisfaction
of the community service graduation requirement under this program?
The Service-Learning Development Committee reviews and approves
courses for designation as "service-learning" courses.
This committee could be used for approving classes meeting the community
service graduation requirement. It is vital that this evaluation
process be faculty driven, with student and community voices considered.
Do you anticipate any special problems concerning transfer and
articulation issues between CSU and the UC and/or Community Colleges
related to a community service graduation requirement?
Articulation procedures are already in place and they will have
to be used for this requirement. Significant issues could arise
If community service is not to be a blanket graduation requirement,
which programs should be excluded and/or which students should be
Again, our belief is that there should not be a graduation requirement.
However, if one is applied, significant room for waiving the requirement
for special circumstances should be allowed. Waivers might be allowed
for departments whose unit requirement already exceeds the 124 unit
minimum, due to extensive major coursework. Also, special populations,
such as disabled students, international students, and re-entry
students might be allowed special exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
It may also be appropriate to waive the requirement when the skills
or temperament of the student might create greater problems than
benefits for the community which is being served. Finally, some
provision for "conscientious objectors" should be considered.
Placing students who are hostile to the idea of mandatory service
could cause significant problems within the general community.
If a student volunteer is rejected by the proposed agency, what
provisions will you be able to make to accommodate the student?
By creating a wide variety of service options, we would hope to
allow enough flexibility in placement opportunities to accommodate
most students. Students with poor personal, professional and/or
academic skills will be difficult to place.
Time to Graduation
What effect would you anticipate on time-to-graduation?
Given the current desire to limit and even lessen graduation requirements,
a new requirement could have an impact on time-to-graduation. The
amount of impact should not be significant for the majority of students,
but could delay graduation for some by a semester.
What assessment measures are you prepared to set up to evaluate
the success or failure of the community service program?
Assessment is generally left to individual instructors and/or the
academic departments. If overall impact on students, faculty and
the community are needed, significant new resources will be required.
Would you anticipate any new, burdensome issues regarding legal
liability between the campus and the community?
Possibly. Liability and risk management are significant
concerns, not just for the state, the CSU System and the university,
but for all parties involved. Issues include:
Community based organization liability
Liability for harm caused by students
Liability for harm caused to students
Workers Compensation issues
Would there be any unusual dangers and risks in your service
Probably no more or less than in any region. However, if thousands
of students per semester are to be sent out into the community,
significant attention must be paid to risk management. Again, this
issue could require significant new resources.
If your students in clinical professional programs perform community
service, will they be risking any particular liability?
Most clinical programs (nursing, physical therapy, athletic training)
have procedures in place to deal with liability and risk management,
such as professional insurance coverage. When academic programs
that have not traditionally sent students into the community problems
could arise. Depending on cost, it may be an unrealistic burden
to require each student who performs community service to purchase
What area of campus will take on the responsibility for resolving
legal issues arising from the performance of community service?
The University Counsel.
If the community service is to be done in K-12 classrooms, can
issues and costs of fingerprinting, character references, drug-testing,
and the like be resolved?
The needs in K-12 settings are extensive, as is the opportunity
for meaningful service experiences. Therefore, dealing with fingerprinting
and screening issues is imperative. At this time, unless special
funds are available, the burden is placed on the student to pay
for fingerprinting and Department of Justice screening. At a cost
of up to $70 and delays of more than three months, significant changes
in the system will need to be implemented on a statewide level if
services are to be rendered in an educational setting. Simply passing
these costs on to students is not a reasonable alternative.
Are there enough off-campus service demands and opportunities
for your campus population for the performance of community service?
As stated earlier, the quantity of demand is not the issue. It
is the number of quality service opportunities that is of major
concern. Service assignments that are both meaningful to the community
and meaningful to the student take careful planning and coordination,
as well as significant resources. Building an adequate relationship
with community partners is both an issue of time and resources.
The needs are there; the infrastructure to provide meaningful community
service learning assignments that address those needs is not.
Are there potentials for damage to already-accredited professional
programs because of an increase in the ratio of students to supervisors
(or volunteers to agencies)?
Doubtful, however, this does raise the issue of whether or not
non-paid fieldwork placements, such as student teaching or nursing
practicums, would satisfy the Governors proposed mandate.
In the end, this impact of student-to-supervisor ratios (or volunteer
to agency) will be most apparent and impacting on the agencies.
This issue will have a significant impact on agencies abilities
to absorb the increased numbers of potential student service providers.
Many of the nonprofits where students would be placed will not be
able to accommodate the number of potential student "volunteers".
Do you anticipate your students competing with other state interests
e.g., a need to place welfare recipients in community service
More and more segments of our state are requiring service of their
constituents. This includes large segments of the K-12 educational
system, welfare agencies, court-mandated service, and higher education.
There is a limit to how many placements nonprofits and service sector
agencies can reasonably handle.
Another issue is whether or not the increased number of volunteers
will supplant paid employees. For example, if hundreds of new "volunteers"
become available to a given school system, what will be their incentive
to avoid eliminating paid teachers aides and other support staff?
Areas of Need
What community needs in your community might be addressed by
community service done by your students? Who would determine what
these community needs are?
The "community" should determine what services are needed.
This includes the nonprofit service sector agencies. Needs do exist
in almost every conceivable facet of education, health care, public
safety, the environment and other areas.
Should assessment of community needs be done with attention
to the effect of mandatory community service on town/gown relationships?
Assessing community needs is important, especially with respect
to such overriding issues as the capacity of various agencies for
supporting students who are only available for a minimal number
of hours. If an unfortunate incident or lawsuit were to occur, significant
negative impacts on the universitys image could result. This
could, in turn, severely impact the relationship between the community
and the university.
Have you done or anticipated a survey of your communitys
ability to train, accept, and monitor alternating flows of student
volunteers? How will they affect agency profiles?
Twelve nonprofit service organizations, along with the Volunteer
Bureau of Fresno County and the United Way, were invited to consult
with the campus community on 10/21/99. The findings from this gathering
- Most of the agencies represented at the meeting did not feel
that they could provide the quantity and type of placements needed
to satisfy a graduation mandate as is currently proposed.
- Resources, primarily adequate staffing, are not available to
screen, orient, train and supervise the number of student "volunteers"
that would result from this type of mandate.
- Most agencies can provide a number of academically relevant
service opportunities. However, limiting student service work
to academically relevant work would impact the number of placements
available, as well as the type of services provided to those in
- Community based agencies would need significant support from
the university including: greater screening and preparation of
volunteers; increased database management, including the development
of a regional website listing service opportunities and placement
procedures; and assistance with fingerprinting and DOJ screening
- While there is tremendous support for increasing student involvement
in service, there is little support for a graduation mandate.
On your campus, who would monitor completion of this requirement?
As stated, our recommendation is to provide a variety of opportunities
and incentives, not mandate to service. If a mandate does become
a reality, the Students for Community Service (SCS) office would
be the primary program responsible for facilitating all community
service and service-learning planning and programming, as well as
for monitoring completion of the requirement. SCS would need significant
support and assistance from various academic departments (related
to service-learning coursework) and from the Admissions, Records
and Evaluations department.
How efficient would this be?
Considering the magnitude of the requirement, the overall impact
is hard to determine. However, a relatively efficient process should
be obtainable with cooperation from all segments and the
allocation of appropriate new resources.
What additional resources would be needed for this?
The first resource issue that would need to be addressed is facilities
for a significantly expanded community service/service-learning
program. Given the extremely limited office space available on our
campus, this would be a challenge. Other resources would include
office equipment, including furniture, computers and other supplies
needed by an expanded staff.
What specific costs (resources, staff, supervising, and reporting)
would you anticipate in implementing such a requirement?
Currently, the SCS office is staffed by one full-time professional
and student assistant support. Significant additions to this staffing
would be required. Funding commitments would have to match the magnitude
and demands of a new, university-wide graduation requirement. Conservatively,
staffing required would include:
- Program Director. Full-time, twelve month management position.
Approximately $65,000 per year, plus benefits.
- Assistant Director: Full-time, twelve month position. Funds
currently used to provide for position of SCS Coordinator could
be used to pay for this position.
- Special Projects Coordinator: Full-time, twelve month position.
Approximately $40,000 per year, plus benefits.
- Community Liaison: Full-time, twelve month position. Approximately
$40,000 per year, plus benefits.
- Faculty Coordinator: 3/4 time or 9 WTU. Approximately $52,500
for full backfill of a tenured professor.
- Clerical Assistant: Full-time, twelve month position. Approximately
$30,000 per year, plus benefits.
- Graduate Assistants: Two positions @ 20 hours per week x 34
weeks x $10/hr = $13,600
- Student Assistants: Two positions @ 20 hours per week x 48 weeks
x $7.45/hr = $14,304
Operating expenses, beyond payroll, would have to be increased
appropriately. Roughly, this would equate to approximately $40,000
per year for travel, supplies, telecommunications, postage, printing
and other expenses.
To provide the needed incentives to faculty to develop meaningful
service-learning assignments, two primary areas must be addressed.
The first is a regular mini-grant program that will support departments
and faculty in their development of service-learning coursework.
A yearly mini-grant fund of $40,000 per year is proposed. Half of
this funding ($20,000/year) would be used to fund $10,000 departmental
mini-grants to increase the number of service-learning classes required
as part of students major requirements. The other half of
the funds would be used to provide individual faculty members with
$2,500 mini-grants to support service-learning development and implementation.
The other, critical piece to engaging faculty in service-learning
is the inclusion of service-learning related activities in the recognition,
hiring, retention, tenure and promotion processes, as well as consideration
of service-learning in workload factoring.
The estimated costs for staffing and operating expenses are as
Professional and Clerical Staffing (new) $227,500
Graduate and Student Assistants $27,904
Operating budget (new) $30,000
Mini-grant/faculty support $40,000
Sub total $475,554
Other potential costs that should be considered include:
Workers Compensation (est. by Risk Mgmt.) $2,000,000
Facilities construction/renovation for 750 sq. feet $75,000
Total estimated costs $2,550,554
There are additional costs, such as transportation and fingerprinting/screening.
Transportation costs would most likely be passed on to students,
but as noted earlier in this document, we do not feel it is reasonable
to demand that students pay the fingerprinting/screening costs,
which could be has high as $70 per person.
There is also the likelihood that such a mandate would have an
impact on other campus departments, including Admissions, Records
and Evaluations, and, Health Services for tuberculosis testing in
the case of individuals working in K-12 settings.
Addendum: January 1999 Psychological Science Article: "Community
Service Requirements Can Discourage Those Not Ready for Volunteering."