My university held a community service day during Spring break. Students volunteered to spend 8 hours working on a project that would benefit the community : in this case, constructing a new public garden. Several dozen students volunteered and we were supervised by two staff members, Ms. L and Professor S.
The digging, wheelbarrow-hauling, building, planting and other tasks were physically intensive but everyone was in good spirits. The good feelings lasted until the end of the day when Ms. L announced: “Now, we’ll all talk about what we learned today.” Instead of going home, the exhausted, sweaty and dirt-covered students were herded into a hot, stuffy room where each person was expected to comment on their day. This exercise lasted from 4 until 5 pm. Most people were either bored to tears or struggling to stay awake.
But it was Professor S.’s speech that really soured the day for me: “Some of you are only volunteering so you can get into med school. I think volunteers should be selfless.”
I predict that very few “selfish” people will offend Professor S. with their presence next year. 0310-12
My question is whether the volunteering was mandated as part of their educational requirements. Were the volunteers doing so as part of a school project? I’m hesitant to condemn the professor without knowing whether this was a school sponsored volunteer project and the after project reflection was part of the educational process. Nonetheless, I don’t think it is prudent to question the motivation of why people volunteer because if one understands human nature, you realize that what drives volunteerism is the intrinsic “reward” a person gets by stepping outside of themselves to help others. A smart professor, sensing that maybe some did approach the project as a requirement, should have nurtured the tiny spark of intrinsic good feelings with encouragement so that it grew into a lifelong desire to serve others.