This weekend, Williams students gathered around toothpicks, bottles of glue and small trees building model trains for the North Adam’s Community youth service. Some helped paint murals at the Williamstown Youth Center while others cleaned up parks and rivers. The Lehman Council was one of the major forces behind events such as these and many other volunteer projects in the area.
Community Service Week was a well-organized and civic-minded event, yet there were relatively few volunteers. This raises concern, as the College lists cultivating civic virtue as one of the pillars of its mission. Yet to find a means of actively attempting to instill a concern for others remains elusive, and perhaps questionable in principle.
As an institution of higher learning, Williams College has emerged with the role of educating the mind, body and soul. There are clearly defined arenas for the strengthening of the mind and body. The question remains, how can the College work on cultivating the soul?
Certain parties have proposed allowing students to satisfy several physical education requirements through community service. We feel that this is an excellent step in creating an incentive for those students who wish to volunteer but for one reason or another, find themselves unable to spare the time. By providing this as an option to students, this option not only encourages participation in community service among those already predisposed toward volunteerism, but also exposes other students who may not have had a previous inclination, towards public service.
If encouraging more students to engage in volunteerism is a positive step towards instilling the civic responsibilities the College hopes to inspire, why not establish a community service requirement similar to the physical education requirement?
We feel that to mandate service is antithetical to the principle of service itself. “Required volunteerism” is a contradiction in terms. Therefore we at the Record feel that allowing granting students the option of satisfying part of the physical education requirement with community service would be a positive step. This is simply one way of providing both the initiative and the incentive for greater student involvement in the community. Hopefully, involvement in college will be followed by a life-long commitment to civic responsibilities.