Mandatory Volunteerism: an Oxymoron?

948 words | 4 page(s)

The idea of American college students being required to provide community service has been debated for years, and shows no signs of resolution. Proponents of these mandates argue that volunteering provides students with enhanced experiences that lead to employment opportunities later on, and the formation of connections to their community (Roehlkepartain.) Opponents of the practice argue that forcing people to engage in community service does little or nothing to enhance a person’s commitment to help others, and in fact, causes resentment that is counter to the intentions of the policy. This paper will discuss the pros and cons of making community service mandatory for college students, taking the position that ultimately this type of policy provides many advantages regarding personal growth, professional contacts, and the reinforcement or development of empathy and should therefore be implemented.

Research has demonstrated that students who engage in competent programs that promote service learning have shown increases in personal and social responsibility as well as communication and a sense of educational competence (Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service.) In addition, students who participate in such activities are likely to develop a greater level of responsibility to their educational institutions. Further, research has demonstrated that after participating in community service activities, students tend to perceive themselves as more competent in social skills, as well as more likely to treat others with a greater degree of compassion. In addition, following these activities they are more willing to offer to help others on a regular basis. In general, there are indications that after performing community service, students also experience a reduction in depression and stress. An analysis of data has indicated that volunteerism contributes to a reduction in psychological distress and additionally, tempers the negative consequences of stressors, thereby increasing life satisfaction (Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service.)

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"Mandatory Volunteerism: an Oxymoron?".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

Providing community service allows students to create strong connections with each other as well as other people and their communities; these attachments facilitate interpersonal skills and expand social networks. As a result, a strong desire to cooperate with others is created, and this sense of social connectedness can have significant psychological and social benefits. In addition, there are cognitive benefits that college students can derive from volunteering, because with each new experience, new skills are absorbed, new information is integrated, and the knowledge base expands. When college students are able to reflect on their volunteer experiences and share them with their peers, they can experience tremendous cognitive gains (Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service.) Finally, when the students are presented with opportunities and the responsibility of making decisions in activities that are interesting and important, they are more likely to think intensively about the topics involved and utilize complex thinking skills.

People who oppose mandatory community service for college students argue that contrary to the popular image of undergraduates, part-time, older and low income students make up a large part of today’s college students (Allen.) Students who must work, especially those with families, do not have free time to engage in community service, so that a requirement to do so would force certain students to have to choose between working at a paid position and volunteering for school. In fact, almost 25% of college students drop out of school because of finances, so it is very unlikely that these same people will give up their jobs in order to volunteer.

Introducing mandatory community service for college students, an increasingly popular policy, is characterized by one defining feature: compulsion. By definition, mandatory community service involves significant force applied from a powerful entity external to the person performing the service; this occurs not because the person has the freedom to choose to do it but because he or she is compelled to do so because of a threat of substantial penalty or the threat of withdrawing some significant benefit (Volunteering and Mandatory Community Service: Choice—Incentive—Coercion—Obligation.) These activities can be considered exploitative, because they make use of a significant amount of the time invested by the student in order to experience benefits to the service that would otherwise be provided by a paid employee. Finally, mandatory community service utilizes a carrot-and-stick incentive that virtually obscures any motivation that would be freely given in an ideal situation. College students are offered either credits or beneficial additions to their academic record by engaging in community service, rather than the more fulfilling benefits that come from doing good deeds.

There are significant benefits as well as disadvantages regarding making volunteering at a community service mandatory for college students. As discussed in this essay, there are social, psychological, and cognitive benefits from becoming involved in activities that expose students to new people and experiences. In addition, providing community service can provide academic and professional benefits that may enhance the students’ career opportunities and paths for their futures. The negative aspect of insisting on community service primarily involves the removal of freedom of choice from a student’s ability to decide whether or not to participate in community service. This eliminates the opportunity to engage in a self-evaluative process that serves to help the student develop self-awareness, goals, and clarification of one’s values. In fact, when one considers both sides of the issue, the significant and varied benefits to students from mandatory community service outweigh the obstacles, and should be considered a vital part of the educational process.

  • Allen, Charlotte. “The Mess of Mandatory Volunteerism.” 15 August 2010. Manhattan Inst. for Policy Research. Web. 29 November 2013
  • “Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service.” 2005. University Of Michigan. Web. 29 November 2013.
    Roehlkepartain, Eugene. “Community-based Service Learning.” December 2007. Service Learning.org. Web. 29 November 2013.
  • “Volunteering and Mandatory Community Service: Choice–Incentive–Coercion–Obligation.” 2006. Volunteer Canada Report. Web. 29 November 2013.

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now