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Serve or Fail?

  /   Sunday June 13, 2004  

Dave Eggers writes in the New York Times suggesting mandatory volunteer hours for college students.

Before I respond with my opinion, let me say that I regret that I thought myself “too busy” to do things for others during my time in college and pharmacy school. I was taking a lot of science courses that demanded a lot of time. However, even when I had organic chemistry, microbiology, and physics in the same semester I managed to play my Super Nintendo throughout the semester, including finals week, and still end up with A’s in all three classes. I had time, and I wasted it.

There were others, however, who had duties in their state in life that did not permit the free time that I had. Some worked many hours a week to stay afloat. Others were married with children. Any service requirements would have to take this into consideration for these students. These kinds of things can be negotiated, but I doubt that university officals will do so properly. The ones who head up these kinds of projects tend to be so gung-ho about them that they show utter disdain for anyone who doesn’t share their enthusiasm, regardless of the reason.

While the above is an important consideration, it is not necessarily a reason to oppose mandatory service for college students who are able. I oppose mandatory service, but for another reason. Simply put, a secular university has no business telling students where they should or should not volunteer.

What do I mean by this? It is likely that a university will have to place some restrictions on what constitutes community service. There are enough people in university administration who have an agenda and will expect their students to have the same agenda. I can see a student not being allowed to count hours at a church-run soup kitchen because of the “religious” nature of the activity but being allowed to count hours at Planned Parenthood. On the same note, I can see a crisis pregnancy center not being allowed to count while seeing the same Planned Parenthood “service” counted.

As a pharmacist, I can see real dangers in this with my pharmacy school. Perhaps students could volunteer to counsel patients on their medication as part of their learning. This sounds like a great opportunity, but guess what the number one dispensed medication from the university’s student health pharmacy is. I can imagine pharmacy students required to do hours in “contraceptive counseling” as part of their service requirement. Such a course was offered as an elective at my school at one time (before I went there), and a professor stated in one of my classes that birth control vending machines should be available in schools.

Things like this have already happened in high school service requirements. In today’s university climate, the danger is far too great. Sure, the student can appeal and/or sue the university, but this wastes time in litigation that should be spent in learning. Given that many students already volunteer, the increase in service hours would not be as great as Mr. Eggers suggests.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized



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