On a campus that’s oversaturated in volunteer opportunities and the giving spirit, surprisingly few people volunteer in their spare time. Of course, that might be because there are so many organizations on campus to be a part of, so many internships and classes that assign hours on hours of homework every night. Maybe we’re just overworked college kids, but shouldn’t we be giving back to the community?
Service Day is a time for the University of Tulsa to reach out to the local community and give back. However, the Student Association’s push for community service has a couple fatal flaws: it starts at an inhumane hour, and it is only one day a year.
As far as student initiatives go, having only two major problems is amazing. However, as students of TU, we have an amazing opportunity to help more than we do. As a student body, there are more things that we could do to promote civic engagement. The impetus has to come from a combination of staff and students.
Currently, community service opportunities on campus are largely passive. There is a volunteer informational meeting out on Dietler Commons in the fall where students can sign up for email lists and opportunities around Tulsa. However, this isn’t heavily marketed to anyone but freshmen. Older students do not typically benefit from it. Aside from SA’s Service Day, students can volunteer independently, donate money to the Residence Hall Association’s annual Coin Wars, or participate in the drives (again, usually monetary) that Greek Life or other on-campus organizations put together. College students, even at a private institution, are notoriously broke. So what else can we do to increase active participation in our community?
Ideally, to increase participation in community events, we could use the on-campus shuttles to take people to recurring volunteering opportunities. The shuttles already go off-campus. Nothing is stopping them from facilitating more volunteer opportunities. Another way is to increase the amount of on-campus clubs and organizations that actively seek out volunteer opportunities. The school could allot some money specifically to go towards enabling students who want to volunteer.
To motivate individual students, volunteer hours could count towards class-related incentives, such as extra credit or homework. Hours spent volunteering could count towards a block credit, much as internship credits can count towards major credits. Community service teaches valuable lessons about society and history that are comparable to, if distinct from, block credits that students can currently choose from. Students could also be rewarded for their efforts with gift cards, extra dining dollars, or other recognition-based rewards.
These opportunities would increase the amount of students who volunteer, and the quality of volunteering, as it would be a sustained effort. Students could begin to create a habit of volunteering. The local community would benefit from having a steady stream of students willing to help out.
SA is doing a terrific job of increasing community service on campus, but this is not a sustained drive. Instead, one day a year is committed to going off-campus in the spring, and in the fall TU hosts a community service informational meeting. These efforts are not enough for a campus that prides itself on community service, and we can and should do better.