Center for Community Engagement
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Academic Service Learning
California's Call to Service

San Marcos, California · USA


(760) 750-4055 Office of Community Service Learning

Fax: ( 760) 750-3550 Dr. Lynda Gaynor, Director

Community Service Graduation Requirement

At the annual CSU conference on Service Learning, 9/30-10/1/99 in Los Angeles, campus directors of Service Learning in the CSU were charged with creating proposals, including budgets, that respond to Governor Davis’ call for community service as a graduation requirement for all CA public universities and colleges. The proposals were to be submitted to the campus Academic Senates who would send recommendations to the statewide Academic Senate and also were to be submitted to the Chancellor’s office to be collated with the other campus responses for an integrated CSU response. At CSUSM, this document written by Lynda Gaynor, Director of the OCSL, was accepted by the Academic Senate on November 10, 1999 for inclusion with the recommendations of its own task force which were then forwarded to the statewide Academic Senate.

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The practice of service dignifies a civilized society. Developing an appreciation of community needs, and developing civic engagement and a service ethic are valid goals of higher education. However, we wish to be on record as advocating for the encouragement of VOLUNTARY rather than mandatory community service. This is a matter of principle. It is also a matter of pragmatics. It would be extraordinarily difficult to create and monitor huge numbers of truly educational community service experiences for students and it is of questionable usefulness to inundate a community with huge numbers of short-term, untrained volunteers. There are many ways that an appreciation of voluntary community service can be developed in higher education through adequate incentives and creative exposure to the community. There are many reasons to believe that service that is embraced willingly will leave a more positive legacy in the future lives of the students and in the community. That said, we shall address the task as charged.

Assumptions: The actual number of service hours proposed is unknown, but for this discussion, I will assume 36 hours; the number could be 30 or 48 or something else. In fact, it would be difficult for community organizations to make use of volunteers for even this little time, let alone less, and it is not likely that a much greater number of hours would be proposed.

It would be likely that there would be some articulation with the community colleges’ service requirement, but it is also possible that university graduates would have a second requirement.

Since this is too unknown at this point, I will assume for our discussion that all CSUSM students would complete the service requirement at CSUSM. It is proposed that the requirement would

be phased in beginning with the freshman class in the Fall, 2000 and so the full impact on university resources would not be felt immediately. For purposes of these calculations, I will assume 1000 students per year in community service, although with our projected growth this number would rapidly.

OPTION I: Independent Community Service

This option is possible theoretically, so it is being presented; however, it has not been well received among faculty because it is questionable educationally, questionable in community benefit, and a drain on University resources.

Many students already do volunteer service on their own or through organizations to which they belong, and other students can be directed to do likewise. With this option, the University forgoes interest in influencing the learning outcomes that occur during the community service, although learning outcomes may certainly occur. The University also largely forgoes responsibility for the nature of the impact on the community of the students’ community activity; we must be aware that students can have positive or negative impacts on people they try to "help". To meet the requirements, students could use community service activities in which they are already engaged, find projects on their own, or independently consult the database on the Office of Service Learning website. There would be no tuition and no academic credit. Students would have a project representative sign off for their hours on a timesheet. If desired, there could be a simple Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory checklist evaluation from the project representative that could accompany the time sheet (with a minimum level of satisfactory responses required), or there might be no evaluation at all. Risk management procedures somewhat like those currently used for Service-Learning courses could be used, or not. Students make their own arrangements for what they want to do with their service time, within whatever basic limitations the University might set.

BUDGET: This option has the lowest budget but that does not take into account the "cost" of lost potential learning or of possible negative impact on the community of student activity. Also, the cost is entirely absorbed by the University since there is no tuition/FTE's produced. The estimated cost of this option for 1000 students per year:

3 CA II FTE to handle risk management forms, if used, verify students’ service hours, transmit verification to Admissions & Records and enter on transcript records, and maintain a database of volunteer opportunities, ideally with student evaluations of the learning value of the volunteer opportunities. (Figures based on annual salary of $25,164 & benefits of $9,284)

$103,344 3 CA II FTE

17,224 .5 Community Service Coordinator

  1. Operating Expenses

$120,968 TOTAL

Plus 6% for University growth and 3% inflation/yr annually for the next 2 yrs.

$131,855 FY: 2000-01

$143,722 FY: 2001-02

QUESTIONS TO BE ADDRESSED: There would be many questions to be answered. It should be noted that some of these questions also would have to be addressed in the other options presented.

  • Could students' service to the University community be counted toward the requirement (i.e., student peer counselors, students who work on the new student orientations or on the Pride or in ASI?)

  • Could volunteer participation in partisan political activities be counted toward the community service requirement?

  • Could participation in the activities of a specific religious organization be counted toward the requirement (i.e., teaching Sunday school, singing in a church choir, doing childcare for adults to attend religious services)?

  • Could services to specific relatives, friends, or selected neighbors be allowable for meeting the requirement (i.e., mowing the lawn for an aunt, washing a neighbor’s car, coaching a neighborhood children's athletic team)?

  • Could activities performed on behalf of a For-Profit business enterprise be counted toward the community service requirement?

  • If the student receives a stipend or is paid for the work, can it be considered community service? (Our America Reads students are given work-study stipends for their tutoring activities in the K-12 schools.) What about paid internships? What if a financial contribution/payment is made directly to the college/university?

  • With appropriate documentation, can previously completed volunteer service be counted toward the requirement? If so, how far back?

  • Must the 36 hours occur in one project/setting, or can it be pieced together from a variety of smaller activities? (The nature of the learning is impacted by this decision.)

  • What is the fiscal, programmatic, and staffing impact on a small community organization of large numbers of volunteers who require project planning, supervision, integration into the organization, and possible coordination with the University?

  • How would students deal with the emotional discomforts or with confrontations to their values or

  • attitudes that can result from what they encounter in their community experience? What about defusing reactions that could lead to destructive interactions with community members?

  • Would the settings in which students do their service take liability/responsibility for students' actions or injury? Would the University be responsible?

  • Who would handle the complaints that inevitably occur (from students, from service organizations, etc.)?

OPTION II: Community Service Class

This option involves a regularly meeting class (2/3 credit hours), possibly meeting on alternating weeks, throughout the semester, with more or less regular weekly community service time, say, a minimum of 3 hours/week for 12 weeks within a single site/project, or a meaningful combination of sites focussed on the same issue. Course would carry tuition, be for academic credit with either a letter grade or CR/NC. Potentially, it could be incorporated into General Education as part of the GEL (Lifelong Learning) course. Course readings and discussion and written assignments would focus on the problem area to which the student’s service is related, community needs and issues (social, educational, environmental, political, health) in general, issues involved in creating change, being an engaged citizen, and in the nature and philosophy of service itself. Ongoing reflection would be expected and is a hallmark of such a course (through written work, class discussion, or other creative means). The student would also receive ongoing feedback from the instructor (and possibly from other students) on their reflections from which they can grow in their understanding of the issues they face in the service placement and of their own reactions.

Community service placements would be arranged collaboratively by the student and the instructor and the community project with the help of a placement coordinator using an expanded version of the database of the Office of Community Service Learning. The same risk management procedures as apply to our current Service Learning courses would apply. The quality of student learning is greatly enhanced when the course instructor has a good understanding of the placement sites and when good coordination with the site supervisor is maintained and site visits by instructors would be encouraged. Instructors might therefore limit their students' selection of placements to a number that the instructor can reasonably have the time to coordinate. The site supervisor’s input might be used in the final course evaluation of the student, along with the instructor’s.

When students do community service and participate in the "real world", particularly "worlds" with which they are not already familiar, they are exposed to the complicated dilemmas of the world. Their values, attitudes, and previous life experiences may be significantly challenged by what they experience, and indeed, this is one of the sources of learning inherent in community service. The class meetings would support the students in dealing with their personal reactions to what they encounter in the community, allow students to reflect on their own attitudes and values, explore unconsidered alternatives, and assist in defusing reactions that could lead to destructive interactions with community members if left unattended. Instructors, with consultation from a Community Service Coordinator or the Director of Community Service Learning or other appropriate person, would be responsible for troubleshooting problems between the student and the field. Classes would need to be sized for responsible monitoring of the students' performance. (Class size is unknown but just for purposes of some budget estimates the number 25 is being used.) Students’ reflections would be expected to go beyond the reporting of experiences and their personal reactions to them. Reflections would be evaluated with respect to the deepening of students' understanding of the complex issues with which they are working and their ability to integrate the content of the course readings and lectures with their field experience.

Clearly, this kind of course is unlike most other academic courses and will require more development than can be described here. However, there are people experienced with this type of course and this type of teaching, and their consultation is important in the responsible development of the course. If a 36-hour community service requirement were met through a 2-credit course in classes of 25, for an instructor to monitor students’ service work, it would take 40 sections to meet the needs of 1000 students each year. This could mean the equivalent of 5 full time faculty capable of doing this type of teaching. Another option would be to use 10 part-time Teaching Associates (if we have access to people with the background and necessary skills), with the Teaching Associates supervised by a part-time senior faculty member experienced with the content issues and process skills germane to the course. Conceivably, a 500 level course could be developed for this group of T.A.s to develop their knowledge of community service learning, and their skills in-group process teaching and other skills demanded their role. The faculty member could be attached to the Office of Community Service Learning or be part of the duties of the Director of the OCSL (assuming an expanded time base).

BUDGET: This option brings resources (tuition/FTEs) to the University but requires a re-allocation of total resources.

$272,450 5 Faculty FTE (based on annual salary of $40, 940 plus $13,550 in benefits)

103,344 3 Placement Coordinators

103,344 3 CA II (salary base as in Option I)

17,224 .5 Community Service Coordinator (salary base as in Option I)

2,500 Faculty Educational Development

  1. Resource library

1,200 Local travel

  1. Operating Expenses

$501,062 TOTAL

Plus 6% for university growth and 3% for inflation annually for 2 years

$546,157 FY: 2000-01

$595,311 FY: 2001-02

- or -

172,455 5 Graduate Teaching Associates FTE (based on the mid-point of $2,620/mo.

for 9 months, no benefits)

54,490 1 Faculty T.A. Instructor/Coordinator (salary base as above)

103,344 3 Placement Coordinators(salary base as in Option I)

103,344 3 CA II (salary base as in Option I)

17,224 .5 Community Service Coordinator (salary base as in Option I)

5,000 T.A. Educational Development

  1. Resource Library

1,200 Local travel

  1. Operating Expenses

$458,057 TOTAL

Plus 6% for university growth and 3% for inflation annually for 2 years

$499,282 FY: 2000-01

$544,217 FY: 2001-02


  • Would this course be attached to an existing program or stand alone as its own program?

  • If a discipline does a Service-Learning course that includes in-class time dealing with equivalent issues, could it substitute for this community service course? Or could some of the sections of this community service course be tied to specific discipline Service-Learning courses to accomplish the same purpose?

  • How would such a course be classified in the Course Classification system (i.e., lecture, lab, field, etc.)?

  • Is there a pool of qualified faculty/teaching assistants for this course?

  • Also, see many of the questions under Option I.

OPTION III: Discipline-Based Service Learning

This option builds on our present structure but would require a more consistent definition of what constitutes a Community Service-Learning course. There may be faculty who would want to continue making use of some "real world" activity as part of the learning in their courses, but not wish to meet all the factors necessary to be a designated Service-Learning course. The use of Option III would require that there be enough faculty interested in doing this discipline-based community service type of teaching to consistently mount 40 Service-Learning courses per year spread throughout the curriculum (for 1000 students). Also, in the case of many disciplines, in order to cover the required academic material and also produce a high quality Service-Learning experience with time for adequate student reflection and faculty feedback, it would be wise to pursue an additional credit hour for the course (for both faculty and students). The additional credit hour would allow both for the community service time and for additional regular (not necessarily weekly) class meetings for reflection, and for responsibly dealing with the kinds of reactions that arise during service work in order to improve the chances of the students' learning experience being a positive one. The reflection assignments would be expected to go beyond a reporting of experiences and personal reactions and demonstrate the integration of the field experience with the academic course content (or in the case of some internship courses, the academic content of previous related courses). It is possible that the service activity could be structured so that it was spread over a series of courses in a particular discipline in a planned integrated way and then the total number of service hours would be divided among the series of courses.

A commonly accepted definition of Service-Learning courses includes:

  • A given number of community service hours (in this case, 36) dealing with real community needs as defined by the community.
  • Ongoing reflection on the experience
  • Ongoing feedback on the reflection
  • Demonstration of mastery of the academic course content
  • Demonstration of the ability to integrate the academic content with the community experience.
  • Attention to increasing students' understanding of the nature of engaged

citizenship, the process of creating change, and the philosophy of service


It should be noted, that, with the exception of some socio-psychological and Humanistic/process education faculty, university faculty are experts in their discipline fields of study and do not necessarily consider themselves experts in exploring students' feelings, attitudes, and values or in managing the group dynamics of a classroom situation in which personal reactions are in themselves the material through which learning is to occur. Students, especially those working with populations or in situations for which their personal backgrounds have not prepared them, can have strong emotional reactions to experiences that can occur during community service and they can experience confrontation with their own values. This is in fact part of the learning opportunity available in the Service-Learning experience, but facilitating this process so that it can have a positive outcome for students and for the community, may not be something for which many faculty would feel prepared.

In this option, therefore, it would be important to build in many supports for faculty: Opportunities for ongoing learning, relevant conference attendance, on-campus faculty development opportunities, and a faculty member with expertise in the dynamics of such teaching available as a consultant to faculty in their expanded roles. This faculty member could be attached to the Office of Community Service Learning, or this function could be part of the job description of the Director of OCSL if the time base were to be expanded. Faculty would also need more help with community placement arrangements than is currently available through OCSL. Another support to faculty might be a 1-credit or mini-course in which some basic groundwork is laid before entering the Community Service-Learning class. This mini-course could deal with some of the issues that were discussed under Option II's Community Service course to provide an initial orientation so that the regular academic service-learning faculty could assume a foundation on which to build. Such a course could be a segment of Area E of General Education taken before or concurrently with a discipline-based service-learning course and be a preparation for community activity. Conceivably discipline based service-learning faculty themselves might pass through a similar orientation in order to have a shared foundation with their future students.


$108,922 2 Faculty FTE (due to additional credit hours to SL courses)

27,245 .5 Faculty FTE, Faculty Service Learning Development

103,344 3 CAII

103,344 3 Placement Coordinators

150,000 Faculty Development

1,000 Resource Library

1,200 Local Travel

  1. Operating Expenses

2,200 Printing Service Learning Guides

2,000 Community Partners’ Education/Support

$499,755 TOTAL


Plus 6% for university growth and 3% for inflation annually for 2 years

$544,733 FY: 2000-01

$593,759 FY: 2001-02


  • Would sufficient faculty commit to teaching Service-Learning courses?
  • Could a fourth credit (for courses presently 3 credits) be achieved?
  • Also, see many of the questions under Option I.

OPTION IV: Combination of Options II and III

This option would not require as much additional staff as Option II (fewer class sections could be offered) nor as many qualified service learning courses as in Option III, because students could choose to do their community service requirement through one path or the other.

$500,408/478,906 Midpoint between budget of Options II and III (faculty option/T.A. options)

Plus 6% for university growth and 3% for inflation annually for 2 years

$545,445/522,007 FY: 2000-01

$503,535/568,988 FY: 2001-02

Content Contact:
Judy Botelho
(562) 951-4749
Technical Contact:

Last Updated: May 06, 2016