Response to the California Performance Review's Proposed Mandatory Community Service Graduation Requirement

AS-2677-04/AA - November 11-12, 2004


RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (CSU) reaffirm its support for voluntary, not mandatory, community service and service learning programs as stated in Senate resolution AS-2488-00.

RATIONALE: The recently issued California Performance Review (CPR) states that "students attending the state's public colleges and universities should be required to perform a minimum amount of community service" in return for "the significant investment of taxpayer funds in their education and their future…." - notwithstanding the need for and the benefits of an educated citizenry.

The Academic Senate CSU recognizes that student participation in community service and service learning can enhance student academic learning, provide a context for theory through practical application in the community, foster civic engagement and career exploration, and at the same time meet the needs of California communities.

Furthermore, the Academic Senate CSU recognizes that each CSU campus provides opportunities for students to participate in community service and service learning. As a result, over 185,000 CSU students provide millions of hours of service to California communities each year. During the 2003-2004 academic year, over 1,700 courses with service-learning components were offered, providing more than 60,000 students with opportunities to participate in service learning. In California, an average of 27%, more than $5.2 million, of federal work-study funding is devoted to community service placements, well above the national average of 14%.

CSU campuses have already developed opportunities and incentives to involve students in community service through the establishment of student-run community service programs and student service recognition awards, the development or coordination of service learning courses; and the creation of special programs such as America Reads, America Counts, Pre-Collegiate Academic Development, Human Corps, EPIC, Upward Bound, VISTA and Americorps programs, and university-wide days of service. Some CSU students receive stipends or work-study funds for their service work to support their educational endeavors.

The Academic Senate CSU acknowledges that service, and the learning that is associated with service, are valuable aspects of a higher education, yet research demonstrates that mandatory service requirements on college students undermine the future intention to volunteer for those students who do not currently feel free to volunteer. Fostering an ethic of service is more appropriately met with incentives and opportunities. Mandated community service for all CSU students would require commitment of substantial additional resources in order to implement. In addition, not all students are suited to participate in community service and may create both liability and public relations issues for the CSU. Mandatory community service may result in delaying the time to graduation and require additional advising resources. The quality of the opportunities offered may be diminished with a substantial increase in students required to take them. The capacity of smaller communities to absorb students in worthwhile learning activities is also questionable.

APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY - January 20-21, 2005

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