Students’ service restrictions need to be loosened

Contrary to my bilious and saturnine nature, I do enjoy helping people. No, seriously I do. That said, I’ve rarely enjoyed doing my mandatory service work over the years.

Take, for example, junior year. I thought about working on a political campaign as an underage intern—I would be unpaid and I had some friends who had done similar things in the past–– but apparently Jesus didn’t include ‘political activism’ in his Corporal Works of Mercy.

So instead, I ended up packing boxes at Feed My Starving Children, trying not to make eye contact with anyone and avoiding spillage-prone Cub Scout Troops at all costs. And this gets at the crux of the issue: people enjoy and find value in service programs they identify with and have a connection with. And, contrary to BSM mythology, not everyone can mesh themselves into the cookie cutter mold required by the Service Practicum.

The purpose as stated by the religion department’s Service Practicum memo is “to give them (the students) the opportunity to stretch their worldview, to meet new people, and to see that faith involves service, commitment, and intellectual understanding.”

In theory, any number of organizations could meet this requirement, from animal hospitals to political activism. But these organizations aren’t what students are corralled into.

This is because any agency considered for the program must meet the following criteria: 1) the organization must serve people in real need, 2) the organization must allow at least 35 hours of service, 3) the organization must be outside of the student’s “comfort zone,” 4) the organization must serve disenfranchised populations, 5) you must have accessible transportation, 6) the organization must allow for service on a weekly basis.

Students’ involvement is limited, not to those organizations that students may identify with, but rather organizations that the Church agrees with.”

— Jack Youngblut

This specific criteria is not designed to allow students to stretch their worldview, meet new people, or prove that faith involves service, commitment, or intellectual understanding. Students’ involvement is limited, not to those organizations that students may identify with, but rather organizations that the Church agrees with.

The more precise requirements leave the validity of the organization up to the opinion of the teacher, not the empirical good of the agency. The Practicum’s insistence on breaking students out of comfort zones does not benefit the place of service; they might get stuck with a volunteer who’d much rather not volunteer.

Having a broad range of potential service options that assist others but may or may not be in line with the Church’s strict teachings allows students to have a more positive experience helping others. In turn, any sort of negative opinions of service that students may experience as a result of their Service Practicum project can be prevented, and a desire to serve genuinely can be fostered.