Response to the CSU Academic Senate
Regarding AS 2471-99 Governors Proposed
Community Service Graduation Requirement
Submitted by: California State University, Fresno
California State University, Fresno has a rich history of engaging
our students in meaningful community activities. Many of the universitys
guiding documents and activities directly point to our desire to
be involved in and serve our surrounding community. Specifically:
The "Plan for the '90s" envisions our university as the "premier
regional interactive university" in which the campus is "singularly
unified with its community". The Plan cites several strategic directions
for the university to achieve its Vision and Mission. Included is
an emphasis on "encouraging student involvement in their own education
through internships, cooperative education, community service experience,
and related activities".
A primary goal listed in our university's newly adopted "Vision
for the 21st Century: A Plan for Excellence" states that our university
will "work towards integrating a significant service-learning component
into the educational experience of each student." The Academic Programs
Task Force also recommended that the university "engage in a major
effort to improve teaching of students through the use of new technologies,
internships, cooperative education, community service experience
and related activities"
The university currently fosters a large number of innovative
and valuable community service and service-learning programs. Documented
service totals in excess of 107,000 hours of service provided to
the community each year by over 3,000 students. Undocumented service,
including individual student volunteerism, would certainly increase
this figure substantially.
The university community recognizes and strongly supports all of
the benefits of engaging students in service activities. We applaud
Governor Davis desire to increase the civic engagement of
our students. Furthermore, we urge the Chancellor, the CSU Academic
Senate, the Board of Trustees, the Legislature and the Governor
to look for ways to increase the number of opportunities and incentives
available to students, staff and faculty which promote service involvement.
We also believe that, whenever possible, service experiences fostered
through institutions of higher education should be intentionally
connected to student learning, as opposed to general volunteerism.
While our commitment to service is visible in words and in action,
we do not support a graduation requirement of service for students
in public institutions of higher education. The reasons for this
A new graduation requirement, especially one as unique
as a service mandate, would have a significant impact when there
is already a desire to limit or even reduce current graduation requirements.
There are philosophical and legal implications of mandating
The likelihood is that the estimated 8,000 annual placement
opportunities needed to satisfy such a mandate in the Fresno/Clovis
area are simply not available. This is especially true when limiting
placements to quality activities that provide meaningful
service to the community, as well as provide meaningful learning
benefits to the students.
It is an expressed fact that most community based organizations
do not have the infrastructure or available funds to screen, orient,
train and supervise the large increase in short-term, alternating
flows of volunteers that would result from this type of mandate.
There are significant infrastructure and budgetary implications
for each campus. It is estimated that providing the university and
the community the services needed to support such a mandate would
conservatively require nearly $500,000 in new funding.
There are significant risk management and liability implications
for all parties involved, from the students, to the community, to
the university, to the statewide institutions involved.
The impact on students includes time required, costs,
and possible delays in graduation.
A number of students will be resistant or even hostile
to the idea of mandatory service; not financially or personally
prepared to provide meaningful service; or simply unqualified, personally,
professionally or academically, to be involved in direct service
Previous research suggests that mandated service does
not support and may even hinder the development of a service ethic
Rather than a mandating service, we strongly encourage expanding
meaningful voluntary community service-learning activities.
This would meet the Governors desire to provide needed services
to our communities, as well as promote an increased civic ethic
within our university community and students.