Staff Editorial: Service First deserves better planning
This Labor Day weekend, a Wash. U. tradition was cancelled for the first time in recent memory. Service First, a day-long community engagement for freshman, was called off when remnant weather from Hurricane Isaac threatened to make the day tedious, dangerous and logistically difficult. While some students slated to be involved that day may have relished an additional day of relaxation, others felt they had missed out. This feeling was legitimate—most upperclassmen can remember their days spent volunteering at local public schools while covered in paint from a mural they orchestrated with floormates. In an effort to redeem some of these positive experiences for the current freshman class, the Community Service Office planned three days of optional service, but it has erred in one major way: seven of 11 service opportunities are scheduled for Oct. 13.
That’s the day after W.I.L.D.
At a school that sometimes lacks in spirit, creating a tradition can be difficult. However, different as they may be, W.I.L.D. and Service First have both achieved this goal—compared to most events on campus they are considerably better known and attended. Unfortunately, scheduling Service First for Oct. 13 pits these two events against one another. But the truth of the matter is, when you put any event in competition with W.I.L.D., the latter will win every time. Students planning to let loose on Friday will likely avoid volunteering Saturday; if they’re nursing a particularly bad hangover, they might avoid doing anything at all. A flyer distributed by the CSO states “We will need RAs, WUSAs, student group officers, and other sophomores, juniors, and seniors to work as project managers, bus leaders, and greeters.” Necessary as this may be to a successful Service First, this population of volunteers will be difficult to come by the day after the largest party on campus.
Acknowledging that two other opportunities for Service First participation exist is important; the CSO will have sign-ups available for Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. Hopefully the events occurring on shorter notice will still have ample volunteers as Wash. U. is certainly not lacking students enthusiastic about community service. But with two opportunities already in place, is a third worth it? This makes the scheduling gaffe more frustrating—the day of service that students will have the most advance notice of is the one that may be the most unsuccessful. Additionally, W.I.L.D. is one of the easiest events on campus to avoid a scheduling conflict with—its date is announced months in advance and available on Team 31’s website as well as in the University’s student planner.
We certainly would not wish for any service event to be unsuccessful; Service First is a great opportunity for students (primarily freshmen) to introduce themselves to community service and to make a contribution to solving the problems that surround Wash. U. But fighting an event that was etched into many students’ calendars long ago will likely prevent the CSO from having a Service First as successful as those in the past, and place unfair expectations on students expected to participate.