Lehman Council sponsors first Community Service Week

Lehman Community Service Council, composed of an almost entirely new board this semester, has been increasing their visibility on campus and encouraging student awareness of community service. The council sponsored the first Community Service Week from April 25 to May 2 in an attempt to establish their role on campus as a provider of easily accessible community service opportunities for students.

The council also sponsored many other activities during the week, such as lectures, luncheons and a Gaudino Forum. These activities focused on promoting intellectual thought about community service, experiential learning and what the role of the council should be on campus.

Service Days

On April 25 the Lehman Council organized a Freshman Community Service Day in conjunction with the Frosh Council. However, the turnout for this event was not as high as last year. Only about 40 to 50 first-years out of a class of 545 students participated.

“We relied on students returning registration forms whereas last year, council members went to entry talks to enlist students to sign up for service projects,” Lehman Council President Dan Nehmad ’99 said. “We would have gotten a larger turnout if we had taken names like last year, but I wasn’t disappointed, although I think a lot more freshman could have come out.”

Lehman Council Vice President Deborah Ebert ’00 commented, “I think the low participation does reflect the somewhat lazy attitudes of the campus. But also, the Freshman Service Day was not well enough advertised, leading to less involvement, I think.”

She added that the service days are separate from the individual service groups that normally go out and that the low attendance just indicates some factors that the board can improve on for next year.

“The low attendance did not change the quality of the day, though… it turned out very well with a number of very dedicated volunteers,” Ebert said.

On Saturday the All-campus Community Service Day was held. The weather was not conducive to outdoor service projects but about 60 people showed up.

“It was a good start, a good first time,” Nehmad said. “I’m happy with it and I think it’s something we can build on and expand for next year.”

“The two service days were a way for people to get involved, perhaps also providing a one-time opportunity for those who can’t make a long-term commitment,” Ebert said.

According to Nehmad and Ebert, the Community Service Week was planned with the intention of informing students of the community service opportunities and to make people more conscious of community service at Williams. Ebert said, “Often people become wrapped up in their various activities at the College, forgetting the community of Williamstown at large.”

“We don’t want to get in people’s faces or give them a guilt trip for not doing community service,” Nehmad said. “But it is important for us to encourage community service and to make it an appealing experience because we think once people do it they will really enjoy it.”

Ebert said, “I think community service tends to be overlooked on this campus; however, the people who are involved tend to be very involved and offer a lot of time and work into their projects.”

The council hopes to make the Community Service Week an annual event and to include another service day in the fall.

Lehman’s Role on Campus

The council will continue to try to increase the number of people involved in community service, according to Ebert, as well as to draw more support for service learning from the faculty and perhaps create a stronger program of service learning at Williams. “I think one of our greatest goals is to increase awareness on campus, whether through the service days, our regular service groups, or through the faculty and service learning,” Ebert said. “We hope to have frosh service day in the fall to draw in lots of volunteers while they are still eager and looking for ways to bond with their entries.”

The current board is comprised of new members, except for Nehmad, because the other members of the last board graduated. Ebert is the new vice president and the new treasurer is Tim Menza ’01.

The new board developed the idea of a community service week at the beginning of the semester and proceeded to do research to find possible projects for the week.

According to Nehmad, the current board is trying to give more structure to the community service groups by advertising for them and trying to get both students and faculty involved. Although the council arranges general meetings for all community service projects, the projects themselves are individual and are structured differently depending on the nature of the service.

The Lehman Council’s role in providing community service at Williams has grown over the last four years. Before that time there was only a president and treasurer who gave out money to the individual service groups. Now the role of the council has expanded. They distribute money to the individual service projects (money provided by the College Council), help with the recruiting of students and work to ensure the projects continuity.

According to Nehmad, if the head of a specific project graduates or becomes too busy to devote the necessary time, the Lehman Council will intervene. In other cases, however, the group head picks the successor.

The council also takes the responsibility of looking for places outside of the Williams community that need volunteers, as well as being receptive if the community seeks service from the council.

Lehman Council Goals

The Lehman Council is also involved in encouraging students to think about the concept of community service.

“We’d like to expose people to thinking more about community service—theorizing or intellectualizing more about it,” Nehmad said. “We are interested also in getting the campus to think about whether or not community service is important and if they do it then why they do it.” Nehmad said the Lehman Council is a community service advocacy group both in theory and practice. “We don’t want to just provide exposure to the community outside the College but to force students to begin thinking about the experiences they’ve had,” Nehmad said.

Community Service Discussions

Community Service Week only sponsored two days of actual service projects, but consisted of many other activities addressing the issue of community service on campus. On April 24 the Lehman Council co-sponsored the Log lunch with the Center for Environmental Studies.

They also sponsored a lunch discussion with the Williams Outing Club intern Deb Zucker, Class of 1997, who is currently compiling resources for professors interested in learning more about experiential learning and teaching.

The Gaudino Forum on April 27, which featured Professor of Biology Henry Art and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jean Bacon, focused on this issue of experiential and, in particular, service learning. Experiential refers to learning from experiences rather than from textbooks. Service learning is one type of learning that involves community service.

Some courses at Williams, such as ones taught by Art and Bacon, use such techniques and supplement the experiential learning with lectures.

“With the Gaudino Forum and Deb Zucker’s talks on service learning, we were hoping students would examine the role of community service and whether it should be a part of the curriculum at Williams,” Ebert said.

“I strongly advocate including community service in the curriculum,” Ebert added. “I think that many departments lend themselves to very valuable experiences in which applying the theories learned in the classroom leads to a whole new conception of that knowledge. The classes already offered as experiential learning have had great successes.”

“I don’t th
ink community service should be required because that seems to defeat the purpose of it,” Ebert said. “Perhaps, allowing community service as a physical education requirement would be a better option, but I think the motivation to make people enjoy and continue to do community service should come from inside.”

Future Projects

The council is currently in the process of another project, funded by the CC, focusing on experiential education. For this project, the council is compiling non-fiction essays from students and faculty who have traveled and had different experiences.

“We want the journal to have a high literary quality but also to be interesting and informative and not sound preachy,” Nehmad said. “We want the stories to be non-fiction narratives of personal experiences or perspectives.”

“In some ways it is a social commentary and in other ways it is a journal of observation,” Nehmad said. “We’re trying to promote experiential learning without really saying it or sounding like an essay for a class. We want it to be more fun and in so doing the journal will hopefully be very interesting.”

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