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Academic Service Learning
California's Call to Service

CSSA Position on Community Service and Community Service-Learning Regarding Governor Davis’ Mandate


On July 15, 1999, Governor Gray Davis sent a letter to California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed requesting the development of a plan that would establish community service as a requirement for graduation.  The Governor also requested that Dr. Reed ask the appropriate faculty committee to work with their colleagues in the UC and Community College systems, through the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS), to create a proposal that would implement this graduation requirement.

Dr. Reed responded to Governor Davis’ mandate on July 26 by detailing some of the volunteer activities already undertaken by our students, including enrollment in community service-learning courses which link academic courses to community service.  According to the most recent Student Needs and Priorities Survey (SNAPS) data, 49% of our students engage in volunteer work, contributing over 28 million hours of service time annually.

The Chancellor also indicates in this letter that indeed the “scope and complexity of a proposal to require community service for all students is challenging.”  He goes on to say that the CSU will work closely with CSU faculty as well as those in the other two segments to “develop a plan that will allow students to participate in meaningful community service that will not only contribute to the broader community of California, but also enhance the learning students have."

The Academic Senate CSU passed a resolution at its September 1999 plenary which requests that the local campus senates assess the impact of the Governor’s mandate of a Community Service Graduation requirement, including considering such issues as time to degree, faculty/staff workload, potential liability, and so on.  The responses were due to the ASCSU by February 1, 2000.

We respect the Governor’s commitment to service and appreciate the opportunity for dialogue that this issue has generated within the CSU as well as among the three segments of public higher education in California. It is our hope that the outcome of this process will result in programs, with corresponding funding, that will serve to enrich all members of the CSU community--and beyond--as well as provide more opportunities for collaboration among all of us. 

CSSA Response

On October 31, 1999, CSSA passed the Resolution on the Governor’s Community Service Graduation Requirement. The Resolution acknowledges the importance and benefits of service to community, the dedication to that service in which so many of our students are, and have been, engaged, as well as strong opposition to any mandate on volunteerism.  

The Resolution also indicates that CSSA will revisit this matter upon completion of the assessment process being conducted by the ASCSU. Following, for your consideration, is the follow up to our initial position, divided into two parts:

  • the overarching philosophies

  • the students’ perspective of how an ideal program of this nature would be implemented on the campuses

Overarching Philosophies

As stated prior, we as students appreciate the commitment to service as exemplified by Governor Davis, not only in his service to our State, but also his obvious passion for the service ethic as a shared communal responsibility.

Although CSSA, as the collective voice of individual student campus governments, spoke in opposition to the Governor’s mandate for mandatory community service as a requirement for graduation, this Board remains in support of community service learning courses.  We praise the vibrant and dynamic environment facilitated by these academic programs, and it is through community service learning courses, as determined, coordinated, and assessed at the campus level, that we strongly believe the Governor’s vision of service will optimally benefit all.

Determination of Curricula

It is our firm assertion that the faculty, not any individual government official, Board of Trustees, chancellor, or president, determine curricula. 

Decentralization as a Shared Value

There are matters that are appropriately considered and implemented at the systemwide level. However, to the greatest extent possible, we value and honor local autonomy and control in decision-making. A value declared in Cornerstones Principle #10 -- The California State University campuses shall have significant autonomy in developing their own missions, identity, and programs, with institutional flexibility in meeting clearly defined system policy goals. When called upon, to the greatest extent possible, we as student leaders will support the efforts of faculty, staff, and administration to provide more community service learning opportunities for our students.

Further, it is important to not just consider the units, but also fulfilling the competencies, as determined at the department level.

In the accountability phase of the Cornerstones process, shared governance is listed as an example of a measure of institutional effectiveness, under the heading of Campus-Defined Performance Areas and Indicators.  We believe that for the overall climate and culture of the campus community, the inclusion of representatives of the major constituency groups, for the entire span of the process only serves to create the best possible outcome. Therefore, we request that campus student leaders are asked to participate in discussions centered on CSL classes, particularly those proposed and developed in response to the Governor..

While we firmly believe faculty determine curricula, there are areas, such as community service learning programs, where student input is crucial. As students, we are the ones affected most by aspects of these programs and are uniquely qualified to share life situations and obligations that are critical to the overall success of not only the programs, but the students themselves.  

Considerations for Campus Programs

We realize that not only is there a vibrant and strong sense of community service ethic on the campuses, but that there are campuses that already have strong community service-learning programs established. Whether a campus is considering setting up a program, or reassessing its current one, we request that student input is actively sought and incorporated.

Within the context of CSL courses, below are some of our suggestions for fulfilling the Governor’s call to service, while at the same time respecting the role of faculty as well as ensuring the most meaningful outcome for students and communities. In order to ensure that this process is indeed a collaborative effort, we propose the following:

Resolved,         That each campus Academic Senate and Associated Students body consider forming a joint committee to examine the issues brought forth below, in addition to any others deemed appropriate by the Committees. Further, it is our recommendation that the Provost or Provost’s designee chairs the Committee; be it further

Resolved,         We the students recommend that the Committees consider the following suggestions:

  1. That every major on every campus should have at least one optional community service learning course
  2. That CSL programs must have the necessary funding as well as other support as identified
  3. That CSL classes should be offered at the upper division level
  4. That the transportation needs of the students be assessed and filled
  5. That the child care needs of the students be assessed and supported
  6. That, in the case of required coursework, working students, and/or those with familial obligations, is provided an opportunity to be granted for exemption
  7. That strong consideration is given to the needs of the community and that placements provide meaningful benefit to the student and agency
  8. That supervisors in the field are properly trained on how to supervise and assess the students’ efforts
  9. That there is transcript notation for CSL work
  10. That student leadership activities are considered as filling the service requirement
  11. That the extra faculty workload is considered in the Retention, Promotion, and Tenure process
  12. That the extra staff workload is considered in Performance Evaluation Assessments
Content Contact:
Judy Botelho
(562) 951-4749
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Last Updated: May 06, 2016